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Snow hits flights, strands drivers in Europe

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

 Heavy snow disrupted European air travel over the weekend and stranded hundreds of drivers in their cars as far south as Italy as a white Christmas appeared increasingly likely for many places.


Britain was hit by more blizzards that shut its biggest airports on the busiest weekend for travellers before Christmas and hit road and rail traffic.


London Heathrow, the world’s busiest international passenger airport, closed both runways until at least Sunday morning to clear the snow, while London Gatwick also closed its runway for several hours.


British Airways cancelled all short-haul departures from both airports Saturday, with all long-haul flights from Heathrow scrapped for most of the day.

People walk past snow covered chairs and tables at a restaurant in Berlin.

Gatwick airport said it was providing beds and cots, distributing thousands of blankets, bottles of water and food and making showers and washing facilities available free of charge.


Flights were also grounded at Stansted and Luton airports near London, at Birmingham airport in Britain’s second city and Southampton airport for at least part of the day.


Meanwhile Eurostar, which operates high-speed passenger trains linking London with Paris and Brussels, was operating with speed restrictions that added up to an hour on journey times.


National rail routes and trunk roads were also affected.


Four people were killed in traffic accidents across Britain caused by the weather. In Lancashire, northwest England, hundreds of people had to spend the night in their cars after an accident blocked the main north-south motorway.


Temperatures dropped as low as minus 17 degrees Celsius (one degree Fahrenheit) north of Norwich in eastern England. Gatwick registered minus 11 Celsius (12 Fahrenheit).


Sporting events were also hit, with several top flight football matches postponed, including Sunday’s big English Premier League clash between title rivals Chelsea and Manchester United. Saturday’s games at Arsenal, Wigan, Liverpool and Birmingham were also called off.


Frankfurt airport, Germany’s busiest, cancelled about 170 flights on Saturday because of the severe winter weather across Europe, an airport spokesman said.


German carrier Lufthansa advised passengers to take the train rather than fly, saying tickets for flights could be used on the railways.


But German rail operator Deutsche Bahn warned that the snowfall would also lead to delays and cancellations.


Dozens of flights were also cancelled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol, the press office said.


In Italy, the Tuscany region was hardest hit, with hundreds of cars stuck on highways around Florence, where up to 20 centimetres (eight inches) of snow fell.


High-speed trains between Milan, Florence and Rome were also cancelled, leaving some 5,000 passengers sheltering in a conference hall in the Tuscan capital.


Florence airport closed until mid-afternoon, while the airport at Pisa, which is used by low-cost airlines, was likely to remain closed until Sunday.

About a quarter of flights from the main Paris Charles de Gaulle hub will be cancelled on Sunday between 0700 and 1500 GMT, while 60 percent of flights were delayed on Saturday, the French civil aviation authority said.

Some 5,200 passengers were rerouted to the airport on Saturday, largely due to Heathrow’s closure, a transport official told AFP. Half of them were put up in hotels while others were given lodgings in gymnasiums near the airport.

In the Bordeaux region five people were hurt on a motorway when a 38-tonne truck ploughed into two vans whose drivers had lost control on black ice, and then caught fire. A fourth vehicle then crashed into the wreckage.

Up to 4,000 people were blocked late Saturday at Brussels airport, which had to accept passengers from other European airports closed by the snow, airport spokesman Jan Van der Cruysse said.

He told Belga news agency: “The flights for London come from everywhere in the world… China, South Korea, Kuwait, the United States, etc. Given that their destination is outside the Schengen zone (for passport-free travel within Europe) not all these travellers have a visa valid for Belgium, so they must spend the night at the airport.”

The snowfall even reached as far south as Algeria, where two people died in a road accident and traffic ground to a halt on several major roads.

The snowstorm that has brought the chaos is moving slowly south over Europe, but the cold weather is expected to continue across much of the continent on Sunday and into next week.

Source: SGGP

Ha Noi police crackdown on highway traffic drivers

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Tests blame some Toyota accidents on drivers

In Uncategorized on July 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Transportation Department tests of “dozens” of data recorders from Toyota vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration found many drivers mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

A Lexus SUV is seen traveling on a highway in Sunrise, Florida. (AFP file)

“The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes,” the report said.


Yet the findings, part of a broad investigation into Toyota’s recalls, “don’t exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: ‘sticky’ accelerator pedals that don’t return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor,'” the report added.


The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration included a sampling of “reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing,” the newspaper noted.


The Transportation Department however, “found that throttles were wide open and brakes not engaged on Toyotas involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration,” the report said, citing unnamed sources.


Toyota has pulled around 10 million vehicles worldwide since late last year, mostly due to acceleration problems.


The company is looking to improve its recall process following heavy criticism of the way it handled safety issues in the United States blamed for more than 80 deaths.


Toyota president Akio Toyoda in June apologized to shareholders for the recall crisis.


In Japan, Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco said Wednesday: “We haven’t received any official information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration yet, so I cannot comment.”


He added: “We are still giving them information about our own evaluations. We are still working for solutions on issues such as sticking accelerator pedals and pedals trapped in the mat. In no case have we found electronic throttles control to be the cause of unexpected acceleration.”

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Source: SGGP