LONDON - The Christmas travel season turned angry and chaotic Monday as British officials struggled to clear snow and ice that paralyzed rail and air links and forced cancellations and delays stranding thousands around the world.
More than 48 hours after Britain's last snowfall, some furious passengers with boarding passes for Monday flights were not even allowed into London's Heathrow Airport. Inside, piles of garbage grew and some people slept on floors.
Other travelers waited in the cold for up to six hours to get into London's St. Pancras train station, where they had to wait still longer for Eurostar trains to mainland Europe.
Chagrined British officials promised an inquiry into the failure to clear the remnants of a storm that dumped five inches over parts of England Saturday morning. Other European airports rebounded from weekend snowfall and had resumed close-to-normal flight schedules by Monday.
"It can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snowplows, or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving, and to have more than one runway going," London Mayor Boris Johnson said as British Airways canceled Monday's short-haul Heathrow schedule.
Forecasters said Britain was having some of the severest winter weather in a century, with continued freezing temperatures and snowfall increasing.
The British Airports Authority, which runs Heathrow, said swings in temperature after the five-inch snowfall in one hour Saturday led to extensive ice buildup around aircraft on the ground. It said every available staff member and several hundred additional contractors were trying to get the airport functioning again.
But the authority offered little hope of relief, saying only one-third of scheduled flights would be allowed to take off and land at Heathrow until at least 6 a.m. local time Wednesday. The British government approved night-flight operations at Heathrow in an effort to reduce the backlog, but officials warned it may take until after Christmas to do so - longer if more snow falls.
At Heathrow's Terminal 5, tired and disgruntled passengers faced lengthy waits without much information as piles of garbage mounted throughout the complex.
"The whole situation is horrible," teenager Sophiya Bolkova said as she clutched her ticket home to Moscow after three days of delay. "We are very angry. People were just mean, rude, sleeping on the floor, babies sleeping on the floor, no information, no help, no money for hotels."
American Suzie Devoe, 20, spent two nights on the airport floor and was desperately trying to get back to Washington for Christmas. "I just want to get home. I want to be with my family," she said. "But I'm being held in a horrible limbo."
At St. Pancras, hundreds of frustrated people hoping to reach France and Belgium by train stood in a line that wound through the station, around the outside of the huge building, and several hundred yards down the road. Many had been there five hours or more. The Salvation Army said it had handed out 2,000 hot drinks since before dawn.