Europe Freezes as Cyprus in Drought

In Drought & Fires, Europe, Floods & Storms, News Headlines

LONDON (Reuters) – Heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures disrupted road, rail and air transport in many parts of northern Europe on Wednesday while the Mediterranean island of Cyprus suffered in the heat after its driest November in more than a century.

Britain labored under its worst early winter weather in almost two decades, with Edinburgh airport and London’s Gatwick airport closed. Snow blanketed much of the country, causing delays on major roads and railway lines.

British gas and power prices rose sharply on increased domestic consumption and demand for electrical power from neighboring countries such as France and Belgium which have also been hit by the cold.

“It’s insane, there’s a lot of panic,” one gas market broker said. “If we have the smallest supply issue it’s going to be worrisome.”

Temperatures in parts of Germany reached a record -18 degrees Celsius for December 1 and there has been heavy snowfall. Flights at Frankfurt airport, one of Europe’s chief hubs, were disrupted.

Geneva airport was closed due to heavy snow and the city set up shelters overnight for 300 people stranded at the airport and main railway station.

Eurostar rail services between London and continental Europe were suffering delays of up to 30 minutes.

In Belgium, criticized by the United Nations for its lack of accommodation for asylum seekers, many took refuge in public places such as train stations. The military started up its winter action early to provide shelter for some asylum seekers, partly in military facilities.

“We have to act swiftly because the situation is serious, especially in Brussels,” said Waut Es, a spokesman at the Social Security Ministry.


There was a markedly different picture, however, in southern Europe where Cyprus is experiencing temperatures in the upper 20s, some five degrees higher than the seasonal average.

“This November has been the driest since 1901. The average precipitation was zero,” said Marios Theofilou of the Meteorological Service.

“The distribution of surface pressure systems won’t allow a low pressure system to approach our area. It’s stuck in northern Europe and won’t come here,” he said.

Across the Mediterranean, Israelis enjoyed T-shirt weather throughout November, wondering when winter would arrive as temperatures stuck stubbornly in the low to mid 30s Celsius.

It was also the driest November in 60 years, with rabbis praying for rain.

The water level in the Sea of Galilee, source of much of Israel’s fresh water, is a meter below the red line. Forecasters say the dry spell will continue. On Wednesday, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem had blue skies with temperatures in the mid 20s.

In Italy, where heavy rains have caused severe flooding in some areas over recent days, the Civil Protection Authority warned of more heavy downpours.

Northern Italy saw major snowfalls on Wednesday, while in Rome, water levels on the Tiber have risen by 110 cms in a single day following heavy rain. The river is close to overflowing in some areas.

(Additional reporting by Laura Macinnis in Geneva, Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, Douglas Hamilton in Jerusalem, James MacKenzie in Rome and Michele Kambas in Nicosia)

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