Icy roads snarl Swedes’ Christmas travels

Icy roads snarl Swedes' Christmas travels
A 50-kilometre long traffic jam developed on a major Swedish motorway on Saturday, with blizzard-like conditions causing numerous accidents and prompting authorities to urge Swedes to delay their Christmas travel plans if possible.

Several accidents were reported across Sweden after the SMHI weather agency issued a blizzard warning and the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikerket) advised against driving this weekend.

At lunchtime, traffic was at a standstill along a 50-kilometre stretch outside Gävle in northeastern Sweden after ten cars drove off the E4 motorway.

Three people were taken to the Vrinnevis hospital in Norrköping, eastern Sweden, after a single-vehicle accident on Saturday morning.

According to the Swedish Transport Administration, central Sweden is at the greatest risk for icy roads on Saturday, particularly along the east coast, as well as in parts of the southwest.

The Christmas holiday weekend is traditionally one of the most intensive travel periods in Sweden.

The heavy and persistent snowfall that hit the south on Saturday will move north towards central Sweden in the evening before intensifying on Sunday when 10 centimetres of snow is expected to fall, according to SMHI.

The weather is expected to clear up, however, in time for Christmas Day.

The far north will be spared the brunt of the weekend snowstorm, but temperatures are nevertheless expected to plummet as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius.

“Weather-wise there is a potential for problems,” said SMHI meteorologist Emil Björck.

“It will be windy along the coasts, which, combined with the snow, means poor visibility.”

In recent years the number of accidents on Swedish roads during Christmas has declined. Last year, two people died.

“That is an unusually low number,” said Claes Tingvall, head of traffic security at the Transport Administration.

While death rates have declined there are still around 100 serious accidents at Christmas time, Tingvall added.

In the past 10 years a total of 100 people have died in traffic accidents in Sweden at Christmas time, so drivers have been advised to exercise extreme caution.

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