Snow traps thousands of cars on Italy motorway, 200 occupants rescued

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MILAN (Reuters) - Thousands of vehicles were stuck in long queues caused by heavy snow on Italy's A22 motorway on Saturday, and firefighters rescued 200 people who had been trapped for hours in cars and buses.

Queues on the route connecting northeastern regions to Austria reached 16 km (9.94 miles), said a spokesperson for the firefighters of the autonomous province of Bolzano.

He added it was hard to assess the number of vehicles involved but they were in the "thousands".

Firefighters' vehicles were used to evacuate about 200 people in need after they had been trapped for hours, with temperatures around freezing, the spokesperson said.

Due to bad weather several heavy vehicles, which were not equipped for winter circulation, had swerved, blocking circulation. An avalanche hit the motorway on Saturday morning, but no vehicles were present on that stretch of the motorway.

Some traffic started moving again in the late afternoon but many vehicles were still trapped. No casualties were reported.

(Reporting by Giulio Piovaccari, Editing by William Maclean)

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