Europe counts bitter cost of big freeze
Much of Europe began to return to normal yesterday after days of the most severe winter weather in decades.
The Big Freeze has taken a lengthy casualty toll since it gripped Europe before Christmas. At least 180 people have died after incidents thought to have been related to the weather.
In Germany, schools along the Baltic Coast were closed and several parts of the A20 in the country's north-east, where more than 160 people were stuck for hours at the weekend, also remained closed.
The situation on the Baltic island of Fehmarn, where villages had been cut off from the outside world at the weekend, was less dramatic.
"With the exception of five villages, we have cleared all the roads," a city official said.
At Frankfurt airport, where more than 300 flights were cancelled in the last two days, only nine flights had to be cancelled yesterday.
The prolonged cold spell raised some concerns for Germany's economy, Europe's biggest, which has returned to modest growth after a deep recession.
"The cold weather conditions could seriously spoil the beginning of 2010 for us in growth terms," Volker Treier, the chief economist at the German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, said.
The cold and snow have put building work on ice -- affecting not only construction companies but also suppliers.
Over the weekend, winter weather crippled natural gas production in Norway, where the temperature dropped as low as -42C. Production at the Ormen Lange natural gas field came to a halt over the weekend "as a result of the continual severe weather in Norway," said a spokeswoman for operator Shell.
It was unclear when the field might come back online.
Meanwhile, ice-clogged pipes at the Kaarsto natural gas processing plant on Norway's west coast left the facility operating at just over half its capacity.
Madrid and much of central Spain was blanketed in snow and children due back to school after the Christmas break were given an extra day of holiday.
Spain's airport authority, AENA, said more than 100 flights to and from Madrid were cancelled between midnight and noon due to snow and fog.
In Poland, railway officials said power lines snapped under the weight of the ice and local trains were cancelled or suffered lengthy delays.
South-eastern Denmark was also hit by snow, causing the closure of roads and schools on the southern tip of the Zealand island and the islands of Lolland and Falster.
Buses stopped running and police recommended that people stay home unless necessary.
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