Strike and Freezing Temps Leave Thousands Stranded at Paris Airport

A strike at the French glycol factory means a shortage of de-icing fuel.

Dec. 24, 2010 — -- Thousands will be spending Christmas Eve at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris. Freezing temperatures and a shortage of de-icing fluid brought on by a strike have grounded planes.

Roissy-Charles de Gaulle, the main airport of the French capital, received a supply of de-icing fluid from the United States this morning. Freezing temperatures and a strike at the main French glycol factory aggravated a de-icing fluid shortage. Authorities were forced to cancel half of the flights -- about 400 -- scheduled to leave the airport this morning, according to The Associated Press.

Freezing weather meant more cancellations in the afternoon, and for security reasons, passengers were evacuated from a section of one of the airport's main terminals whose roof was covered in large amounts of snow, The Associated Press reported.

Rescuers from the French Protection Civile set up hundreds of camp beds for stranded passengers to sleep on.

Getting people home is "our goal for tonight," said Air France ground official Michel Emeyriat on the iTele TV channel. He said that priority would go to long-haul flights. "We will do everything so that our planes can take off with everyone."

Air Travel Disrupted Across Europe

"On a day like today, we would normally have had around 25,000 flights across Europe by now," Rena Fakhouri, a spokeswoman for the air safety organization Eurocontrol told The New York Times. "By contrast, we've had about 15,500 so far today."

In Germany, the Frankfurt Airport remains open, but large amounts of snow shut down Duesseldorf Airport for several hours this morning. About 65 flights were canceled, according to The Associated Press. The weather affected Germany's railway system as well. The railway line between Berlin and Hanover was closed Thursday night because of ice covering the overhead electric wires. The line reopened early Friday morning.

Many flights at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam were delayed or canceled.

Ninety-five percent of flights at London's Heathrow Airport are still on schedule, with some airlines even adding extra flights to clear out the airport's stranded passengers.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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