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Unseasonal winter storm strikes northern Europe

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-12

Unseasonably severe weather struck much of France on Tuesday, leaving tens of thousands of homes temporarily without electricity and paralysing travel across Europe.

Just when many in France allowed themselves hope that spring may be around the corner, a fresh flurry of heavy snowfall struck much of the country, leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity and disrupting travel across Europe.

French weather service Metéo France put two regions in the northwest on red alert – the highest possible – and 28 other regions across the country's north and northwest on orange alert because of the winter storm, calling the snowfall “remarkable for the season because of the expected quantity and length of time”.

Seeking to reassure the French public, President François Hollande said that the government was taking “exceptional measures” to deal with an “exceptional storm”.

Eurostar was forced to suspend its train service late Tuesday morning after closing sections of its high-speed rail, which it blamed on “severe weather conditions overnight in northern France and Belgium”. In Germany, Frankfurt airport, which is the third busiest in Europe, partially reopened on Tuesday afternoon after being forced to shut down for two hours because of heavy snow.

More than 68,000 homes were without electricity in Normandy and Brittany at some point, but ERDF, France’s main utility company, said their numbers were down to 500 on Monday night. Meanwhile, nearly 500 cars were blocked near Cherbourg where snowdrifts piled up 60 centimetres (almost two feet) as winds reached 100 kilometres (more than 60 miles) an hour.

The frigid weather also left at least 14 people, including six firefighters, injured near the northern city of Lille after icy conditions on a motorway caused a three-car accident.

In the Paris region, civil aviation officials asked airlines to cancel up to 25 percent of flights from Roissy and Orly airports, while snow delayed trains on the Paris-Cherbourg line as well as TGV high-speed trains.

A ferry carrying 491 passengers headed to Ireland from Cherbourg was forced to abort its arrival because of heavy seas on Monday, but was expected to make another attempt early Tuesday.

The severe weather, however, is expected to be short lived. Weather stations have forecast conditions to improve by early Wednesday.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-03-12