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Madrid airport closed as Europe freezes

A rare, heavy snowfall in central Spain closed Madrid's airport and paralysed city traffic while several rivers in Germany were frozen as much of Europe endured Siberian conditions.

world Updated: Jan 10, 2009 08:44 IST

A rare, heavy snowfall in central Spain closed Madrid's airport and paralysed city traffic while several rivers in Germany were frozen as much of Europe endured Siberian conditions.

Russian gas cuts to several European countries this week have aggravated the effects of the bitter cold which has left much of the continent shivering since the end of December.

Not everyone was beaten by the extreme weather though, with some Dutch taking advantage of the cold snap to skate along iced-over canals and lakes.

"What I love most is the crunching of the ice under the skates and the sensation of gliding," said Marie-Therese Sluijters-Rompa, a 62-year-old retiree who came to the western village of Kinderdijk to skate with her husband.

"It is a little piece of heaven," she added. Elsewhere, however, the freezing conditions caused widespread disruption.

All four runways at Madrid's Barajas airport, Europe's fourth busiest, were closed for nearly five hours because of heavy snow and low visibility, disrupting the travel plans of thousands of people.

Hundreds of flights were delayed during the period the airport was closed and 52 were diverted, Spain's national airport authority AENA said on Friday.

Nearly 400 kilometres of traffic jams and dozens of road accidents were reported in and around the Spanish capital.

Several centimetres of accumulated snow forced football champions Real Madrid to cancel a training session.

Office workers gathered at building entrances and windows in Madrid to watch the unfamiliar sight of snowflakes falling in the Spanish capital while others staged snowball fights on city pavements.