World

Europe's snow cancels flights _ and Lady Gaga show

Heavy snow on Sunday shut down European airport runways, forced fast trains to slow down and left cars skidding through icy, slushy streets on a weekend where many people were trying to head home for the holidays.

Travelers camped out at airports overnight. London's Heathrow Airport stopped accepting arrivals Sunday, causing havoc at the start of the Christmas travel rush. About 40 percent of flights were canceled at Frankfurt airport and Paris' Charles de Gaulle.

In the French capital, where snow quickly turned to slush and big trucks were banned from roads, a Lady Gaga concert was canceled because trucks carrying sets for the pop diva's extravagant show couldn't get to Bercy stadium. The show was likely to be rescheduled for Tuesday.

Many airplane passengers slept in makeshift dormitories at Paris' Charles de Gaulle, at Amsterdam's airport and at Heathrow, Europe's busiest hub for air passengers.

"The bars were open and some people were drinking and got quite nasty," passenger Sue Kerslake, who was stuck at Heathrow, told the BBC.

Heathrow said no planes would land on its runways on Sunday and that only a small number of flights would likely depart.

There was chaos in the tunnels leading from the underground station to Heathrow terminals, with hundreds of travelers told by airport staff to go back and call their airlines for updates.

Singer Lily Allen was among those caught in Heathrow disruptions, forced to disembark from her plane after a fully boarded flight was canceled.

Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association breakdown service, said conditions on many British roads were treacherous.

"There are thousands of roads with compacted snow which, on hills at minus temperatures, are like ski jumps," King said.

Icy conditions in Britain caused three deaths on Saturday, police said. A teenage girl was killed in a sledding accident, while a mother and her 10-year-old son died in a traffic crash.

Britain's national weather forecaster, the Met Office, said the nation has experienced the heaviest snow falls in December in decades and is on course for record low temperatures.

"You have to look back to December 1981 to find similar snow depths," forecaster Helen Chivers said. "If the second half of the month is as cold as the first, this will be the coldest December on record since 1910."

France, meanwhile, is having one of its snowiest winters in years. Many TGV fast trains were running slower than usual, tacking about 20 minutes on to each journey. Eurostar trains to Britain and Thalys trains to Belgium and the Netherlands were also affected.

In Italy, Florence's airport remained closed Sunday morning amid snow and ice storms that blanketed Tuscany.

At Frankfurt airport, Germany's biggest, more than 500 flights were canceled Sunday out of a planned total of 1,330 departures and arrivals.

While the runways at Frankfurt itself were clear, flights were disrupted by problems elsewhere in Europe, with some passengers left waiting for their flights since Friday.

Mirjam Snoerwang, spokeswoman for Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, said snow plow teams had cleared three runways, and planes were arriving and leaving. However, because of problems at other European airports some 30 flights had been canceled by late morning.

In Scandinavia, where temperatures in some places dipped to below -20 degrees Celsius (-4 F), meteorologists warned snow was piling up on the icy roads following heavy snowfall and strong winds. Airports were operating normally, but several long-distance trains were delayed.

Soccer games in England, Scotland, France and the Netherlands were called off as a result of the conditions, including a high-profile match scheduled for Sunday in London between Chelsea and Manchester United.

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David Stringer in London, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Malin Rising in Stockholm, Nicole Winfield in Rome and Mike Corder in the Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.