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Snow wreaks holiday havoc across Europe

[ 2010-12-23 11:08]     字号 [] [] []  
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The snow was melting off London's streets, but Heathrow Airport told infuriated passengers it won't restore full service until Thursday - five days after a 12-centimeter snowfall turned hundreds of thousands of holiday plans into a nightmare of canceled flights and painful nights sleeping on terminal floors.

Travelers' anger boiled over into politics as Britain's prime minister offered to put troops on snow-clearing duty and Europe's top transport official threatened tougher regulation of airports unable to cope with wintry weather.

"It's pathetic - you would think this is a Third World country," said 29-year-old Janice Phillips, who was trying to get back to Minneapolis. "All they've been talking about was this snow forecast. You would think the government could do a better job."

"It's not even snowing!" said 19-year-old Candie Sparks, who was trying to get back to Santa Fe, New Mexico. "It's crazy."

Days after a driving snowfall that ended on Saturday after dumping 12 cm of snow in an hour, the terminals at Heathrow were clogged on Tuesday with passengers desperately looking at computer screens to see if they would be able to get to their destinations. So many people were sprawled on the floor that it was difficult to walk.

Some wore Santa hats decorated with vulgar signs making fun of their most un-merry Christmas.

Transportation experts said that after many years without heavy snowfall, under-investment has left Heathrow and dozens of other airports across Britain and Ireland without enough equipment or personnel to cope with big storms.

"They have concluded they don't need snow clearance equipment, so we don't have the capability when bad weather comes in," aviation consultant Chris Yates said.

He said airport operators in Helsinki, Stockholm and other snowy climes have the equipment and manpower to clear runways within 30 minutes and to remove ice and snow from aircraft stands quickly, while Heathrow lags far behind.

This was evident in the days after Saturday's snowstorm, when airports in Frankfurt, Prague, Amsterdam and other major cities in mainland Europe bounced back more quickly than Heathrow, where the ice quickly hardened, making removal more difficult.

London's Gatwick was hit by less snow and recovered faster than the larger Heathrow. Its runway reopened and flights were operating on Tuesday night.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Snow wreaks holiday havoc across Europe

About the broadcaster:

Snow wreaks holiday havoc across Europe

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.