AN annual Christmas Day swimming race in London was called off on Saturday after the water froze.
AN annual Christmas Day swimming race in London was called off on Saturday after the water froze. For the first time since 1981, swimmers arrived at the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park for the 91-metre open-air race to find the lake had frozen over.
It was the result of a cold snap that forecasters predict could make this the coldest December in Britain for more than 100 years.
On England's south coast, members of the Brighton Swimming Club took their annual Christmas dip in the English Channel, where the temperature was a refreshing 3.3 degrees Celsius.
On the Danish island of Bornholm even a tracked military vehicle failed to get through the snow to take a midwife to the village of Tejn, so that a colleague had to take to her skis instead.
Rene Wang Hansen told AFP the midwife covered six or seven kilometres to reach his daughter Gitte, who was later able to board the army's personnel carrier to be taken to hospital for the birth of a boy.
The Baltic island of about 43,000 people has been snowbound since Thursday and police have advised everyone to stay at home. Hundreds of tourists and other visitors have been put up in a gymnasium and a military barracks.
In Germany, another Baltic island, Ruegen, was also snowbound and no trains were running, but rail operator Deutsche Bahn said conditions were improving elsewhere and there were no major problems.
In the north-western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, police warned pedestrians to be on their guard after a woman was killed on Friday by a falling branch in the forest of Gelsenkirchen.
Airlines took advantage of fewer Christmas Day flights to clear runways and the backlog of passengers, some of whom had waited for days to leave.
About 200 travellers awoke on Christmas morning at Paris's Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport after authorities laid on what hospitality they could on a night which is traditionally an occasion for family get-togethers round a groaning table.
Departure screens showed nearly all flights due to leave on time, as staff folded away the camp beds that had been provided along with food, Christmas toys, a Santa Claus and a Catholic Mass for the faithful.
"The children have presents, we have things to eat and drink," said Beatrice Clavel, stranded with her husband Didier and their two children. "All that's missing is a good shower."
In Britain, virtually no public transport ran as usual on Christmas Day, not even Eurostars to and from the continent, but trains in France were back to normal though high-speed services were still delayed by speed restrictions.