- Title: VARIOUS: Thousands shiver in Europe's big chill
- Date: 8th January 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CHILDREN PLAYING IN THE SNOWE
- Embargoed: 23rd January 2009 12:00
- Topics: Weather
- Reuters ID: LVABDECYOAPFC7403ZQ1YDFH4CWG
- Story Text: Freezing winter weather grips much of Europe with temperatures plunging to record lows in Germany and heavy snow forcing normally sunny Marseille to close its international airport.
Western Europe was feeling the chill on Wednesday (January 7) as the effects of a cold front sweeping the continent made themselves felt.
Across the north and east of Spain people woke up to a blanket of snow covering fields, roads and houses, making travelling conditions hazardous and in certain cases the use of snow chains obligatory.
In Madrid the thermometer dipped below zero, and Spanish media predicted temperatures to reach as low as minus ten degrees Celsius in parts of Catalonia. But it was not all bad news as children enjoyed throwing snowballs.
Up to 40 centimetres (cm) of snow has fallen across northern Italy since Tuesday, slowing people's return from holidays by train, plane and automobile.
Bulldozers fought to clear highways as further snow fell in Milan but traffic in some parts of the city was snarled due to trees that had fallen under the weight of the snow, according to the regional emergency authority.
A civil defense spokesman said that things were not expected to improve until Friday.
France is experiencing a cold weather snap that has gradually moved from north to south.
Heavy snowfall paralysed all train and bus traffic in France's second-biggest city, Marseille, on Wednesday.
The usually busy and sunny Mediterranean port city ground to a halt as snow overwhelmed infrastructure and stopped school buses and all other public transport.
Electricity consumption has hit record levels as families turn up home heating. Rail, road and air traffic has been disrupted for several days.
But while some complained about the transport chaos, others were enjoying the unusual snow falls.
"It's fabulous, it's good. Fresh air, it's good," said one man.
In Germany, icy temperatures and snowy weather have brought back icebreakers to Berlin's lakes and rivers.
On Wednesday, icebreaker "Oder" cut through the layers of frozen water on the river Spree, keeping it open for shipping especially for the large coal transporters that feed the power stations. The two icebreakers "Oder" and "Oderberg" cruise daily freeing the waters from ice and floes.
"At the moment, temperatures hang around minus 20 degrees"
said skipper Hartmut Graesch. "In this weather the ice is between five and ten centimetres thick, sometimes more."
Graesch added that his ship was strong enough to cope with this thickness of ice.
Cologne residents also struggled with the cold although some enjoyed the feeling of a "real" winter, resident Karin Titz said.
According to meteorologists, the cold weather can be expected to last until the weekend.
The cold snap has plunged the west of the United Kingdom to shivering new lows.
Southern England is experiencing colder temperatures than Iceland or Greenland.
Temperatures got down to minus twelve Celsius on Tuesday night (January 6) and the docks in the port city of Bristol were left frozen.
More snow fall is expected on Thursday (January 8).
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