Heavy snowfall wreaks chaos in southern Germany

2.12.2023, 16:15

By Ute Wessels and Sophia Roth, dpa

Heavy overnight snowfall paralysed transport connections in the southern German state of Bavaria on Saturday morning, leaving thousands of travellers stranded, some of them on trains halted by the weather front.

Other parts of the country also experienced heavy snow and ice, with conditions expected to deteriorate further on Saturday night. At least one person died as a result of the condition when a car skidded and collided with a van. 

Winter services were working to restore safe operations at Munich Airport, where flights were suspended until 6 am (0500 GMT) on Sunday. Passengers due to travel on Sunday were advised to check the status of their flight before travelling to the airport.

A Lufthansa spokesman said the closure of air traffic in Munich would have an impact on other airports. For example, there are also significant restrictions in Frankfurt.

Rail transport was also affected, particularly around Munich, as fallen trees blocked tracks and overhead lines were iced over.

Train services to and from Munich Central Station were initially cancelled, including connections with the Austrian cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck. Passengers in Ulm and Munich had to spend the night on immobilized trains.

Services in southern Germany were expected to remain severely disrupted until Monday, a railway spokeswoman told dpa.

Underground trains, buses and trams also initially stopped running in the Bavarian capital. Scores of traffic accidents were reported throughout the state and there were long queues of vehicles on major roads, including a 30-kilometre tailback on the A8 motorway from Munich to Salzburg.

Also there were outages in parts of the German state of Bavaria on Saturday, leaving thousands of households in the dark as the cold weather spell continues. The main areas affected were around Munich, but also a number of towns to the south, east and north of the city, after trees fell on power lines and lines were damaged or severed by the weight of the snow. Warnings were issued to the public not to approach cables that were hanging down or lying on the ground.

The police in Upper Bavaria called on the population to stay at home while the emergency and snow-clearing services worked to restore normal life. Many smaller roads outside of built-up areas were heavily snow-covered or blocked by fallen trees.

Authorities also advised people to stay out of forests due to the risk of the weight of snow bringing down trees.

Bavaria's sporting life also felt the effects of the snowfall, with the cancellation of Saturday's Bundesliga match in the capital between German football champions Bayern Munich and Union Berlin.

"Even if it had been possible to get the pitch at the Allianz Arena in a condition that would have allowed the match to be played by the afternoon, safety risks and the traffic situation made cancellation unavoidable," Bayern Munich said in a statement. 

Snow falling from the roof in the arena would pose a great danger for spectators, the club said, while it was unlikely that fans, police and other personnel would even be able to reach the stadium.

Parts of the neighbouring state of Baden-Württemberg received up to 40 centimetres of snowfall overnight. According to police, a 54-year-old driver died when his vehicle spun and collided with a van on Friday evening in the town of Emmingen-Liptingen. The driver of the van was uninjured.

The German Weather Service expected the harsh conditions to continue for the time being. Heavy snowfall was expected to continue into the afternoon in the south and south-east, with parts of the north also hit by the cold weather front.

Hamburg reported 5 centimetres of fresh snow, with frequent snow showers expected on the North and Baltic Sea coasts and in the neighbouring inland areas.

Severe frost with lows of between minus 10 and 15 degrees Celsius were expected on Saturday night, especially in the far northern state of Schleswig-Holstein and mountainous parts of south-western Germany.