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Snow stops traffic in southern France

Trafic on the A47 highway near Saint-Etienne, 20 November, 2013
Trafic on the A47 highway near Saint-Etienne, 20 November, 2013 AFP/Philippe Desmazes

Winter has started in the French mountains with heavy snowfall disrupting transport and cutting off electricity to thousands of homes in the south of the country. The city of Saint Etienne awoke on Wednesday to 20cm of snow.


A number of trees, wieghed down by snow, fell on power cables, roads and rail lines overnight, causing traffic chaos and power cuts.

TGV high-speed trains were running between 45 minutes and an hour late in the Rhône-Alpes region and trains were not running on lines between:

  • Lyon-Saint Etienne;
  • Lyon-Grenoble;
  • Saint Etienne-Firminy;
  • Saint Etienne-Montbrison.

Officials asked travellers to put off journeys in the region on Wednesday.

Only one runway at Lyon's Saint Exupéry airport was open due to technical problems and difficulties in deicing and planes were delayed more than hour.

Heavy good vehicles were banned on departmental main roads and traffic was slow on motorways in the region with risks of ice adding to the danger of accidents.

Overnight snowfall in Saint Etienne, in the foothills of the mountains south-west of Lyon, stopped buses and trams.

At midday Wednesday 15cm of snow was registered in Saint Etienne and 30cm at heights of 600cm in the mountains nearby.

Power was cut off to about 55,000 homes in the French Alps and the Massif Central mountains, electricity-providers reported.

The snow was forecast to ease off during the afternoon and stop in the evening but start again during the night.

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