Heavy snowfalls and life-threatening sub-zero temperatures across Europe have been described as the worst “in a generation”.
The death toll in Europe since last Friday is at least 46, and 10 people have died in the UK.
The so-called ‘Beast from the East’ has combined with Storm Emma, coming in from the south-west of Britain, to create chaos.
Transport systems have been paralysed, schools have been forced to close and hospitals to cancel operations.
The Met Office issued a ‘red warning’ – its most severe alert – on Thursday as the severe weather front continued to pummel the UK. Forecasters said the harsh conditions could continue in some places into next week.
In Scotland, soldiers have been deployed to transport National Health Staff to work.
A mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl on the side of the road in County Durham, Ireland, after failing to get to hospital in terrible driving conditions, reported The Guardian.
Much of Europe has suffered from a blast of cold arctic air from Siberia, causing widespread snowfall, gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour.
Snow has even appeared on the normally balmy beaches of the French Riviera.
The extreme cold saw overnight temperatures on Thursday plunge to a widespread low of between -4 degrees Celsius to -6 degrees Celsius.
The airport in Geneva, Switzerland, was forced to close for several hours after it was hit with 13 centimetres of snow on Thursday morning.
Dublin airport in Ireland, Glasgow airport in Scotland and Montpellier and Nimes airports in southern France also cancelled flights due to dangerous weather conditions.
There have been up to 8000 vehicle collisions in the UK in just three days, amounting to more than £10 million ($17 million) of damages, according to figures from the Automobile Association’s Cardiff-based car insurance claims team.
Motorists on the M80 near Glasgow reported being stuck for up to 13 hours, with some spending the night in their cars, and others abandoning their vehicles on the motorway.
In southern France, about 2000 cars were blocked on snowbound highways.
In Lincolnshire, in eastern England, police said most roads had become impassable, due to heavy snowfall that reached as much as 60 centimetres in rural areas.
More than 1500 schools in Yorkshire, in northern England, had closed amid a Met Office amber weather warning that forecasted heavy snow falls to continue into Friday.
Across England, GP appointments were cancelled and non-urgent medical operations were postponed due to staff shortages.
Met Office forecaster Sophie Yeomans told The Telegraph on Friday that “things could yet get worse”.
“There is more snow on its way. The problem will be when the snow gets trodden down and compacted and turns to ice.
“Meteorologically, it’s the first day of spring but winter is clinging on and giving us a right old kicking.
“It’s still in control.”