UK airports closed after snow

2009-12-18 10:27

London - Two of London's airports were closed on Friday after heavy snow fell overnight across the south and east of England, causing chaos on the roads, closing schools and raising the odds of a white Christmas.

As Britain entered the busy Christmas and New Year holiday season, the runways at London Gatwick and London Luton had to be closed overnight after they were covered in a blanket of snow.

"The runway is not safe," said a spokesperson for Gatwick, where at least 18 incoming flights had to be diverted to other British airpots overnight. It promised to resume flights as soon as the snow and ice could be removed.

Heathrow Airport, the world's busiest international hub, remained open.

In eastern England, pupils were given an early start to their holidays when schools were closed in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, where Queen Elizabeth II has also begun her holidays.

The queen's Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where she arrived on Wednesday for the annual Christmas celebrations with the rest of the royal family, was among the regions hit by thick snow overnight.

Hundreds of drivers had to spend the night in their cars in Kent in southeast England, while police in Essex reported 180 accidents overnight.

Police in the worst-hit areas warned people to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary, as forecasters predicted further heavy snow showers across the southeast on Friday.

Bookmakers William Hill have lowered the odds on London being covered in snow on Christmas Day next Friday to 9/4, from 8/1 just ten days ago.