Spring blizzards strand British motorists

2013-03-12 14:02
Cars follow the tracks of cars in front and keep one lane open on a main road near Newcastle, northern England, after overnight snow and freezing temperatures covered the region. (Owen Humphreys, PA/ AP)

Cars follow the tracks of cars in front and keep one lane open on a main road near Newcastle, northern England, after overnight snow and freezing temperatures covered the region. (Owen Humphreys, PA/ AP)

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London - Britain was hit by unseasonable spring blizzards that left hundreds of people stuck in their cars overnight and disrupted Eurostar services to the continent on Tuesday.

Drivers including former Eurovision song contest winner Cheryl Baker were trapped for more than 10 hours as ice, snow and freezing winds descended on southeastern England.

Police, rescue services, snow ploughs and gritting lorries battled to help the stricken motorists in temperatures as low as -3°C.

The Met Office said conditions would remain "unsettled with below average temperatures" even beyond next week, in the run-up to Easter.

The counties of Sussex and Kent bordering London were worst affected with roads including stretches of the M23 motorway near Gatwick Airport under 10cm of snow.

Singer Cheryl Baker, formerly of the band Bucks Fizz which won the 1981 Eurovision with the song "Making Your Mind Up", was among those caught up in the chaos as she tried to reach Brighton to pick up her children.

Students stuck

"We [took] 10 hours to do a one-hour journey," she told ITV.

"The traffic and the weather have just been atrocious and none of the roads had been gritted. There are snowploughs coming out now - it is like after the horse has bolted."

Long queues of lorries waited to enter the Channel Tunnel, which was closed for six hours overnight because of technical problems.

More than 100 people spent four hours on the road to the Channel Port of Dover after a lorry jack-knifed amid snowdrifts, police said.

Eurostar "strongly advised" passengers not to travel, saying that services of the train that runs under the English channel were disrupted "due to extreme weather conditions".

Around 120 German students were stuck overnight in the town hall of the southeastern coastal resort town of Hastings as families due to host them were unable to pick them up.

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