Amsteredam: The freezing conditions gripping Europe have produced one unexpected upside: parts of Amsterdam’s canals have frozen over, allowing locals to ice skate on the waterways.
For the first time in about six years, part of the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals froze hard enough to support the weight of dozens of sightseers, locals and ice skaters.
Footage from the canals shows people on skates criss-crossing the ice while others stroll along enjoying the novelty of walking on what is normally flowing water.
Photographs showed onlookers sitting on canal boats or standing on bridges to watch the spectacle.
However, the unusual conditions did snare two skaters who took to the ice on Thursday when it was not quite thick enough. According to local media, the pair fell through the ice and were rescued by passersby.
Elsewhere, Europe’s deep freeze continued to wreak havoc on Saturday. After heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards, conditions marginally improved in some regions on Friday - although temperatures generally remained sub-zero, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at airports.
In Britain, the Met Office said the Arctic temperatures were set to rise. “After the extreme weather many of us have seen recently many will see conditions ease a little through the next few days,” it said.
In France, the forecast this weekend was for rain rather than the kind of heavy snowfall that has blanketed vast tracts of Europe.
Over the past week, the freezing conditions have claimed more than 60 lives, according to an AFP toll, including 23 in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic and five in Lithuania. Other deaths were recorded in Spain, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
France has seen at least nine weather-related deaths, including four skiers killed by an avalanche on Friday in the Alps, which have seen particularly heavy snowfall.
Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to a record -40C in the ongoing blizzard, which even covered Mediterranean beaches with a blanket of snow.
Geneva’s airport announced it had re-opened shortly after midday Friday “despite the unfavourable meteorological conditions”, having warned earlier it faced staying shut for a second consecutive day. Airport authorities warned, however, of further “delays and cancellations”.
Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures with a number of major roads blocked because of snow and black ice as forecasters warned the country’s northern and central regions would see little immediate improvement.