Travel chaos in France as snow blankets Paris
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Snowfall has caused huge traffic jams and hampered train services in the Paris region as the French capital experiences its first real dose of wintry weather this season.
The Meteo France weather service put the greater Paris region on alert for snow and black ice on roads, among 28 departments it expected to be on alert across the country until late on Wednesday.
The weather caused major gridlock across the city, with more than 700 kilometres (430 miles) of traffic jams recorded by Tuesday evening, and similar congestion expected through Wednesday after the snowfall intensified overnight.
The absence of salt on slippery roads – let alone of snowploughs, a rarity in France – left many drivers fuming as they sat for hours in long queues.
Expect Paris metro to be only thing working today in woefully unprepared France pic.twitter.com/Tylf9r7nt5bendodman (@bendodman) February 7, 2018
The RATP transport authority said bus services had been interrupted in the capital, while school buses in two regions near Paris were also halted on Wednesday.
Meteorologists have warned that the snow could turn into treacherous ice sheets later in the day with temperatures expected to fall as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
"This will be the first blast of winter, late but the real thing, with cold air from Scandinavia colliding with a perturbation coming up from the south," said forecaster Sebastien Leas.
Rail operator SNCF has had to slow down trains on several of its high-speed TGV lines, with services disrupted across much of northern France.
Thousands of emergency accommodation spaces have been opened to shelter homeless people, the country's territorial cohesion ministry said.
In the Paris region, traffic has been banned for vehicles weighing over 7.5 tonnes, with drivers told to bypass the area. Local residents have also been advised to limit road trips.
The serious weather conditions have forced the iconic Eiffel Tower to close its gates, though visitors were delighted to snap pictures of the snow-covered iron tower from afar.
The cold snap marks a sharp contrast from the weeks of mild and rainy weather across northern France in recent weeks, prompting flooding in several areas and pushing the Seine River to more than four metres above its normal levels.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)