Snow traps 3,000 on French motorway overnight

An aerial view of Lussault-sur-Loire near Montlouis-sur-Loire in eastern France
An aerial view of Lussault-sur-Loire near Montlouis-sur-Loire in eastern France AFP

Some 3,000 motorists spent Wednesday night in their cars on a motorway in the south of France after heavy snow hit much of the country. In Paris about 30 politicians spent the night on the street to call attention to the plight of the homeless.


About 150 cars and their passengers were still stranded on the A9 near Montpellier at midday Thursday, although the majority of the 3,000 who had spent the night there had been moved.

Many vented their frustration on social media, one driver tweeting that he had been there since 3.30pm the previous day.

Motorway operator Vinci autoroutes apologised to the motorists but blamed "exceptional weather", which saw up to 30cm of snowfall on the usually sunny city Montpellier.

Vinci said it had distributed 1,650 meals overnight but complained about the "irresponsible attitude" of lorry drivers who had defied a ban to take to the motorway "without winter equipment".

Public transport stopped in Montpellier itself and administrative buildings were closed.

Downpour follows snowfall

Nearby firefighters intervened to save the roof of a shopping mall from collapsing and 25 people were evacuated in another town because of heavy rain.

About 7,000 homes suffered power cuts in the south due to the snow but forecasters said on Thursday that their principal concern was not heavy rain that was falling on the region as the thermometer rose.

Some 27 départements were on ice alert and others warned of likely flooding.

A motorist was seriously injured on the A7 motorway after colliding with a snowplough at 2.00am and a school bus swerved into a ditch to avoid another snowplough in eastern France.

Temperatures soared in some parts of the country on Thursday, reaching 16-18°C in Biarritz on the Atlantic coast.

But snow fell in Paris overnight and in Brittanny on Thursday morning.

Flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport were delayed by about 30 minutes and at Orly 55 minutes.

Politicians sleep in the street

A group of local and national politicians spent Wednesday night on the Paris streets to draw attention to the plight of the homeless.

"Twenty homeless people have died in Ile de France [the Paris region] since the beginning of January," said the initiator of the move, Etampes deputy mayor Mama Sy, who was elected as an independent.

Last week a census organised Paris city council found 3,000 rough sleepers on the capital's streets.

In December Urban Affairs Minister Julien Denormandie caused an uproar with a claim that only 50 men were sleeping rough in the wider Paris region.

More than 1,900 places in emergency accommodation in Paris have been created during the current cold spell.

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