Eight Poles Die as Europe Freezes

Eight men have frozen to death in Poland while heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures in western Europe have closed at least four airports.

With temperatures falling to around -20 Celsius in much of Poland, police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said the men, all of whom had been drinking alcohol, died alone.

The big freeze severely disrupted airports across Europe with Edinburgh airport in Scotland, Lyon-Bron airport in southeastern France, and Geneva, Switzerland’s second biggest airport, all shut as staff struggled to clear the runways.

Zurich airport reported delays and cancellations on the day many VIPs, including former US President Bill Clinton and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, were travelling to FIFA’s headquarters to push their countries’ bids to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

A spokeswoman for Zurich airport said officials anticipate heavy snowfall there from 12pm local time (2200 AEDT) but expect to keep flights going.

Still, the presence of so many private jets in Zurich on Wednesday means the airport has had to turn down requests for diverted landings, said the spokeswoman.

Eurostar trains through the Channel Tunnel also were affected. Operators said six trains to and from London were cancelled and delays of up to 30 minutes on other services were expected.

Meanwhile, heavy snowfalls in Italy hit Milan and the Lombardy region while Venice’s city centre was flooded as water levels continued to rise.

Snowfalls disrupted traffic in city centres and on motorways in Lombardy and Piedmont, while in Emilia-Romagna the Civil Protection Agency issued a bad weather warning until Wednesday night.

The Italian Motorways Association said the 1500 kilometres of highways affected were currently open to traffic despite the snow.

Tourists in Venice wrestled with the problems posed by floodwaters as water levels hit 111 centimetres according to the municipal Tide Centre.

In Rome, the Tiber river was forecast to surpass the 11-metre and 30 centimetres warning mark later in the day on Wednesday as heavy rains continue to lash the capital.

Swiss weather agency Meteosuisse forecast more snowfall throughout Wednesday and into Thursday as a low-pressure front centred over western Europe moves slowly eastward.