Europe weather: UK army sent out; Dutch ice skate on canals

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A red London bus makes it’s way through the snow as a blizzard hits central London on March 2, 2018. (AFP)
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People sled in the snow at Farnborough in Hampshire, southern England on March 2, 2018. (AFP)
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This picture shows snowfall in the center of Brussels, on March 2, 2018. (AFP)
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A couple walk in the snow at Farnborough in Hampshire, southern England on Mar 2,2018. (AFP)
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A tractor helps clear a road of snow in Scotland March 2, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 02 March 2018
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Europe weather: UK army sent out; Dutch ice skate on canals

LONDON: As unusually cold weather gripped Europe, Britain’s military was sent out Friday to central and western England to get hospital employees to work and help police rescue people from snowbound vehicles.
Nicknamed “The Beast from the East,” the cold front caused travel chaos, with hundreds of flights canceled in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Switzerland. Trains broke down. Motorists found themselves stuck on highways and trapped in frosty conditions for hours.
“This is particularly unusual weather,” British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said. “It’s something that happens very rarely in this country.”
Up to a meter (three feet) of snow was reported in eastern Ireland, and travelers were stranded south and west of the capital, Dublin.
The big chill also froze canals in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. Ice on the historic Prinsengracht canal was thick enough for residents to lace up their skates and glide across its frozen surface. Tourists without skates slid across the ice, taking selfies.
“It’s just cool. You can go fast and you see the world from a slightly different perspective,” said skater Noldus Reijnders.
Heathrow Airport tweeted Friday that it was working with airlines to consolidate the flight schedule “to provide more certainty around departing flights,” amid the extreme winter conditions across the UK and Europe. More than 350 flights were canceled. Gatwick, London City, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports also reported cancelations.
Other European airports closed down entirely. Authorities at Geneva’s airport suspended air traffic for a second straight day amid heavy snowfall. By early afternoon, flights had resumed.
Around 340 flights were canceled at Ireland’s Dublin Airport, which posted images of swirling snow together with the hashtag “BeastFromTheEast.” It doesn’t plan to open until Saturday.
The army sent 20 troops and 10 four-wheel drive vehicles to Shropshire, the county south of Liverpool, and the Royal Marines sent resources to Devon and Cornwall on the southwest coast after police asked for help.
One train traveling from London’s Waterloo Station to Weymouth ground to a halt outside New Milton, stranding motorists for hours. By mid-afternoon, South Western Railway and Southeastern had urged customers not to travel.
Some commuters reported that rail doors refused to open as the push-button mechanisms froze in the cold. Thousands of homes are without electricity as temperatures remain below freezing with bitter winds.
One police force in Scotland tweeted a picture of a patrol car beside a snowdrift almost as high as the vehicle itself to show drivers why they should stay home. “PLEASE AVOID THIS AREA,” the post said.
In central England, volunteers brought hot drinks and blankets to stranded drivers as they waited for help. Eleanor Kelly, 19, said those stranded in the Milnrow suburb of Rochdale included a father with a baby and toddler in his car.
“We’ve been trying to get to as many people as we can,” she said.
Commuter Philip Brown endured more than 15 hours on a train traveling from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, Dorset. The average time for the journey is about two hours.
“I didn’t have any food or water. There were no buffet facilities on board. The train lost power and we lost heating and lights,” said Brown, 49. “I couldn’t tell you how cold it was, but it was cold enough to prevent you from sleeping ... People were wrapping jumpers round their legs trying to keep warm.”
But in Amsterdam, nobody was complaining about the cold. Residents on skates glided past tourists who slithered across the ice for pictures. One woman took her dog for a walk along the frozen canal.
Still, despite measures taken by authorities to help the ice develop, there were still some holes and parts of the canal weren’t frozen at all. Reijnders was wearing a special red ice pick around his neck just in case.
“If you sink through the ice — and there are still a few dangerous places — you can pull yourself out,” he said.


UK intelligence chief: Al-Qaeda on the rise as a result of decline of Daesh

Updated 9 min 39 sec ago
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UK intelligence chief: Al-Qaeda on the rise as a result of decline of Daesh

LONDON: Britain's security relationship with its European allies was being galvanized by common problems such as dealing with militant fighters and brides returning to Europe after the collapse of Daesh's "caliphate" in Syria and Iraq, the chief of Britain's foreign intelligence service said on Friday.
"We are very concerned about this because all experience tells us that once someone has put themselves in that sort of position they are likely to have acquired the skills and connections that make them potentially very dangerous," Alex Younger, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, said.
"The reality is that so far, it has been a completely manageable problem," he added. "I can't predict accurately what will happen in future, but it's a very complex environment."
Daesh has morphed and is proving "adept at inspiring attacks rather than directing them", he said.
"Al-Qaeda, which has always been in a rivalry, and almost zero sum relationship with Daesh, has, I think, undergone a certain resurgence as a result of the degradation of Daesh," he added. "It is definitely not down and out."