A blanketing of snow that shows no signs of stopping over Central Europe disrupted everything from traffic to funeral services yesterday, as parts of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic effectively shut down.
At least eight weather-related deaths have been reported in Austria since the weekend.
One child was reported dead in Bavaria yesterday, presumably by a tree that fell under the weight of the snow.
Yesterday mountain rescuers there reported that they saved nine winter tourists from Hungary, Poland, Russia and Ukraine who had become stuck in the snow at the Zell am See resort.
The Eastern Europeans had ventured off-piste despite avalanche warnings.
Meanwhile, hundreds of drivers had to spend the night in their vehicles after becoming trapped on a highway in southern Germany amid a major snowstorm having its way with the region.
The drivers were trapped from about 8pm on Wednesday (1900 GMT) until about 5am yesterday.
Police said problems were made worse by lorries sliding on the motorway and blocking traffic for a 35km stretch.
Police, emergency crews and other volunteers responded to restore order and distribute blankets and food to those who were trapped.
Train passengers were not spared, with much train service disrupted across the country’s south and east.
Dozens of centimetres of snow have already fallen, with the country’s weather service promising nearly non-stop snow until the middle of next week.
Train officials blamed fallen trees for the disruptions, but noted that they had kept most major stretches free.
The mass of snow has knocked down trees across the region, blocking roads and cutting off some communities.
Authorities have also warned of avalanche risks.
Most schools are closed.
The area around the southern German city of Berchtesgaden – a favourite site for tourists and skiers – was officially declared a catastrophe area.
Mayor Franz Rasp said the city would likely need to come up with €25,000 extra ($28,798) to clear all the snow.
Just shovelling it aside would not do, he noted: The snow will have to eventually be hauled away.
The weight of the snow was also a concern.
Rasp noted that most roofs had about 2m of snow, which meant they were bearing a weight of about 400kg per square metre.
Most houses are designed to withstand 500kg, and more snow is on the way.
Rasp said he already spent four hours yesterday clearing his roof. “I have to go back up this afternoon.”
At least most of Berchtesgaden remained somewhat accessible though.
The district of Buchenhoehe, which lies about 1,000m higher up the mountain, is cut off from the rest of the world thanks to the snow.
The German military is organising special transports so its residents can get provisions.
“How does it look up here? White!” said one employee at a Buchenhoehe hotel who would not give his name after he picked up the phone.
He said they still had power and heat, though “the Internet is a little shaky”.
The snow was also extending up into eastern Germany, where road and train outages were also reported.
A cemetery in the city of Chemnitz announced no more burials until next week, citing snow danger.
In Austria, road access to several major ski areas remained closed because of avalanche risk yesterday, including Lech and Obertauern.
In snowed-in Hohentauern, soldiers were able to reach the community with food and fuel supplies for the first time since Saturday.
More than 4,500 homes were without electricity yesterday as the heavy snow damaged power lines.
In the town of Feldkirch, a man died when he was run over by his own car, which he had parked on a slope while he was shovelling away snow from a garage.
Austrian meteorologists expect another half-metre of snow to fall in the Alps by today, on top of the several metres that have already piled up.
Parts of the northern Czech Republic were also snowed in.
The city of Jablonec nad Nisou also declared an emergency.
City officials said they might make use of prison labour to clear the roads, according to a spokesperson speaking to the CTK news agency.
About 9,000 homes are without power in that region, mainly because fallen trees have severed power lines.
Fire crews are racing to trim trees before further damage is done.
Additionally, a border crossing to Poland had to be shut down.
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