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Snow grounds flights at Dutch airports
[THE HAGUE] Snow wreaked havoc in the low-lying Netherlands on Monday, briefly closing down Eindhoven airport, shutting schools and leading to transport chaos with hundreds of flights and trains cancelled or delayed.
The rare winter show may have delighted children, who once again set off in search of any slope on their sledges, but it proved a headache elsewhere as the National Weather Centre (KNMI) issued its highest code red warning.
Schiphol airport, just outside Amsterdam, was forced to cancel 430 flights already by early afternoon - about a third of all of flights in or out of one of Europe's top five busiest air hubs, and many others faced long delays.
"We are de-icing the planes for their safety and we have snow crews out trying to keep the runways clear and remove the snow, but they can't keep up," Schiphol spokesman Paul Weber told AFP.
"People should keep in touch, look at the website, and find out how to reach us as the trains are having difficulty," he said, warning that even though most of the snow was supposed to melt by Tuesday there would likely still be flight delays.
Eindhoven airport, the country's second biggest, said just after midday on Twitter that "due to wintry weather conditions, the runway is currently closed." It reopened about three hours later, but some flights were still being diverted or cancelled.
Passengers flying out of Rotterdam The Hague airport were also faced by late Monday with delays and cancellations.
The Dutch road safety association ANWB reported roads were clogged around 18:30 pm with 1,385 kilometres of traffic jams reported around the country due to the icy conditions.
The snow arrived in The Netherlands early Sunday, and by late Monday the weather centre had extended its code red warning across virtually the whole of the country, to include also the northern regions including Friesland and the city of Groningen.
It warned "of wide-spread icy conditions" while in the west the snowfall would be accompanied by "a powerful and strong northeast wind" which could cause snow drifts.
For those who struggled into work on Monday, the national railway NS had but one message. "Go home as early as possible to avoid travel problems." "Travellers should take into account that there will be longer travel times," it warned on its website, adding it was running a reduced service.
Bus services in many cities including The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht were also halted by early evening, after many had trouble navigating the slippery roads.