MADRID Jan 9 One of the heaviest snowfalls in
decades closed Madrid airport and brought traffic in the Spanish
capital to a standstill on Friday.
Airports operator AENA said all flights were halted at
Barajas airport from 11:50 a.m. (1050 GMT), adding to the misery
of passengers already suffering weeks of delays and
cancellations due to industrial action by Iberia IBLA.MC
Iberia operates 600 flights a day in and out of the
four-runway airport, which handles more than 50 million
passengers a year.
Madrid's regional government convened a meeting of its
crisis committee and raised its warning level to orange -- the
second highest -- as snow fell through the day and settled on
the capital's streets for the first time since February 2005.
A transport department spokesman said all Madrid's major
highways were jammed as a result of the bad weather.
The National Meteorology Institute said 10 cm (4 inches) was
expected to fall in Madrid on Friday and further snow would fall
over much of the country during the weekend.
The high north and central Spanish plateau sees deep snow
every winter, but although Madrid sits at 650 metres above sea
level, the city's heat makes snow a rarity.
Television pictures showed a lone cross-country skier in San
Sebastian taking advantage of the wintery conditions across the
country, using the northern town's main beach as a trail.
(Reporting by Ben Harding and Teresa Larraz)