Europe airports battle snow backlog

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LONDON. December 22. KAZINFORM European airports are struggling to help thousands of passengers stranded after severe wintry weather paralysed parts of Europe's transport network; Kazinform refers to BBC News.

Freezing temperatures, snow and ice has grounded flights, trapping travellers returning home for Christmas.

Airport operators defended their handling of the crisis amid criticism from the European Commission.

Officials at the worst-affected airport, London's Heathrow, rebuffed offers to bring in the UK Army to help.

Since Saturday, when 12.7cm (five inches) of snow fell in just one hour, Heathrow airport - the world's busiest - has cancelled hundreds of flights.

The airport operator BAA said that both runways were now open but warned: "Airlines are currently operating a significantly reduced schedule while they move diverted aircraft and crew back into position."

British Airways said that in line with a directive from BAA, it would operate only a third of its normal flight schedule at Heathrow until 0600GMT on Thursday, Reuters reports.

Delays at Heathrow also had a knock-on effect on other northern European airports.

In Ireland, the Dublin Airport Authority said the airport would be closed until at least 0800GMT on Wednesday, the The Irish Times reports; Kazinform cites BBC News.

See www.bbc.co.uk for full version

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