Deadly freezing temperatures continue to hit US, Canada

This article is more than 12 months old

Flights cancelled, passengers stranded as temperatures drop to record low

NEW YORK Eastern US and Canada froze on Saturday under record-breaking low temperatures following a deadly winter storm as New York's flagship airport descended into chaos, battling to contain flight backlog.

In Canada, temperatures approaching minus 50 deg C were forecast in northern Ontario and Quebec, while arctic blasts and dangerously cold wind chills could make it feel as low as minus 42 deg C across the eastern US, with the risk of frostbite to exposed skin within 10 minutes, officials warned.

The deep freeze follows a storm, dubbed a "bomb cyclone" by forecasters, which has been blamed for at least 19 deaths in the US, from Texas to Wisconsin, US media reported.

Last Thursday's storm raked the US east coast with heavy snowfall, forcing the cancellation of flights.

But on Saturday, more than 3,420 flights within, into or out of the US were still delayed, with New York's John F. Kennedy and South Carolina's Charleston international airports among the most affected.

The Port Authority said a surge in flights rescheduled after the storm, combined with severe storm damage to equipment, resulted in delays in getting planes and passengers to gates.

Tracking site Flightradar24 said at least 12 international flights had been waiting, for around two to four hours, for a gate to deplane.

Passengers complained of being stranded on the tarmac and then facing lengthy delays in baggage claim that made travelling - particularly with babies or the elderly - a misery.

"Losing patience," tweeted passenger James Allen, who said he travelled on Virgin Atlantic and had to wait three hours on the tarmac, then two hours in baggage claim.

Many trans-Atlantic flights simply went home, including an Aeroflot flight from Moscow that turned back over Iceland.

A Norwegian Air flight from London diverted to Stewart International Airport, 112km north of Manhattan, while Flightradar 24 said a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo diverted to Boston.

Adding to the chaos, a China Southern Airlines plane and Kuwait Airways jet clipped each other's wings at John F. Kennedy airport late on Friday, causing damage to both aircraft but no injuries, officials said. - AFP