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Unusual weather shuts Moscow airport

December 27, 2010

MOSCOW, Dec 26: A power failure shut down Moscow’s largest airport on Sunday as unexpected weather conditions produced hailstorms that wreaked havoc with the city’s traffic and left shoppers slipping on ice.

Domodedovo International Airport, which daily handles an average of more than 55,000 travellers, reported a power outage at around 8am. An emergency power supply unit allowed the airport to receive the approaching traffic but all arrivals and departures were suspended two hours later, a spokeswoman told NTV television.

Some 16,000 people were left stranded at the facility and airport officials said they did not expect flights to resume before Monday morning. The city’s second-largest airport Sheremetyevo remained open but experienced delays of up to two hours on some routes. State television said it received 10 flights from Domodedovo before shutting itself to the extra traffic because of the weather.

Temperatures in Russia’s capital hovered around the freezing point throughout the weekend, producing unseasonable rain showers that turned the city into what one television station described as a “concrete skating rink”.

The warm front left some residents putting mattresses on their cars to save them from the massive icicles dropping from the city’s buildings. Others were seen holding on to the walls of buildings as they carefully navigated the streets.

Moscow officials advised the city’s 10-million-plus inhabitants to stay at home, with a mayor’s office spokesman telling Interfax that people should not venture outside “unless there was an extreme emergency”.

The freezing rain also damaged power supply lines used by the city’s trams and trolley buses, with officials ordering 96 extra buses out onto the streets to cover the affected routes.

“I wanted to leave the car at home and take the trolley, but those are not moving either,” one man told NTV television while digging his car out from under the snow.

Further problems were also reported on Moscow’s suburban train routes. A traffic spokesman told Interfax that there were delays throughout the region “affecting almost all the destination points”.

The deputy head of Moscow’s regional government told state television that the power outages had affected 455 settlements around the city and other parts of central Russia, with 197,000 people left without electricity by midday.

Moscow’s December temperatures average at around minus five degrees Celsius (23 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the website, with daily lows recorded at around minus eight degrees Celsius.—AFP