Europe

France Alps: Snow strands thousands of motorists in Savoy

  • 28 December 2014
  • From the section Europe
Media captionMany cars were not equipped to deal with the heavy snow, as Hugh Schofield reports

Snow and ice in the French Alps have stranded thousands of vehicles for a second day, snarling up holiday traffic to and from ski resorts.

The authorities in the Savoy region said up to 15,000 people spent Saturday night in emergency accommodation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of air passengers were stranded at an airport in Chambery with some reporting a lack of facilities.

The cold snap has also caused disruption in the UK and Germany.

Conditions improved on Sunday, with French forecasters lifting an orange weather alert - France's second highest - of ice and snow, according to French media reports.

The French government had earlier urged drivers to "exercise the utmost caution" and avoid travel if possible.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many drivers were forced to spend the night in their cars

One man reportedly died on Saturday when his vehicle slid into a ravine in the Isere region, while another man was reported killed in an avalanche on Sunday.

Three more people died in snow-related incidents across France earlier in the week, the French daily Le Monde reports.

Separately, a British ski company called Crystal Ski says it has arranged emergency flights to help bring home hundreds of holidaymakers stuck at Chambery Airport, in the Savoy region.

Local gyms and community halls were opened up as shelters for stranded motorists on Saturday.

Motorists seeking accommodation "stormed" the Chambery exhibition centre, according to the website of Le Dauphine Libere newspaper (in French).

Eleven hours

Image copyright Gavin Rigby
Image caption Gavin Rigby and his family faced an all-night journey after slow progress all day

British driver Gavin Rigby told BBC News on Saturday he had taken 11 hours to drive between Val d'Isere and Bourg Saint Maurice - a journey which would normally take 30 minutes.

Mr Rigby, who was returning to the UK with his family from a skiing holiday, said they had received no help from the French authorities, and had had to rely on other motorists for information.

He felt most sorry for the drivers who had, unlike himself, set out without snow chains.

"The police should have got people to fit chains this morning after half a metre [20 in] of snow fell last night," he said.

Strong winds caused damage elsewhere in France, shutting the port of Calais, where an anti-migrant fence was partially toppled.

Closer to Paris, the celebrated gardens of Versailles were closed to the public because of gales.

Heavy snow caused disruption to roads in Germany too, causing a 25km (16-mile) traffic jam on the A8 motorway near Stuttgart.

Media captionWriter and journalist Rachel Johnson, whose car is stuck in snow outside Geneva, Switzerland, described conditions

In the UK, weather warnings of ice and snow were also in place across the country. Hundreds of homes were without power in parts of England on Saturday, including nearly 500 in the East Midlands and nearly 300 in Devon.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many holidaymakers woke up inside local civic centres and community halls on Sunday morning
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some struggled to reach the popular ski resort of Val d'Isere
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Snow cloaked motorways in western Germany such as this one at Recklinghausen
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption In the same city in Germany's Hesse region, some people sought to make the best of the white stuff
Image copyright Kath
Image caption Parts of the Netherlands saw snow on Saturday too. Kath sent in this photo from Roosendaal

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