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Traffic clogs French roads as storms spoil summer holidays start

The Tour de France, which will complicate traffic problems this weekend, between Saint-Etienne and Chamrousse on Friday
The Tour de France, which will complicate traffic problems this weekend, between Saint-Etienne and Chamrousse on Friday Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Traffic jams were expected to clog France’s motorways on Saturday as city-dwellers leave home for their summer holidays. Many are heading for rain and even hail as summer storms hit much of the country.

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On the third weekend of school holidays, traffic-watchdog Bison Fûté sounded a red alert for Saturday.

It advised motorists to avoid roads around Paris and Lyon between 6.00am and 2.00pm and major motorways in the north of the country between 9.00am and 4.00pm and in the south between 10.00am and 6.00pm.

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At 10.00am traffic jams were reported near Lille, in the north, La Rochelle and Bordeaux in the west and Dijon, Lyon, Avignon, Montpellier and Toulouse in the south.

Cycling fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the Tour de France were expected to add to the mayhem, clogging up roads leading to the route it will followed through the Alps during the weekend.

A substantial improvement was expected on Sunday, apart from some congestion around cities in the late afternoon.

In a bid to encourage safe driving, motorway operators Vinci installed a giant siesta space on a layby near the southern town of Montélimar between Lyon and Marseille.

With temperatures of about 35°C, motorists who stop at the layby – about 40,000 during holiday weekends - are offered siesta kits including masks for their eyes and ergonomic cushions and can sleep under tarpaulins.

Drowsiness is the principle cause of death on the roads, causing 15-20 per cent of France’s annual toll.

Storms hit much of the country overnight and were expected to move north-east, causing rain, high winds and possibly hail in 43 départements, including the Paris region and Normandy and then starting again in the afternoon in the Pyrénées and the central mountains.

Winds could reach as high as 130km per hour in some areas, Météo France warned, and hail could mean serious damage to property and endanger lives.

Two weeks ago one person died in floods in the French Basque country and storms damaged vineyards and caused festivals to be cancelled last month.
 

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