One dead and 15,000 cars stranded in French Alps as snow sweeps region

Thousands of British tourists are trapped in the Alps as extreme weather sets in

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The Independent Online

One man has died and thousands of tourists making their way to and from ski resorts in the French Alps were trapped overnight due to heavy snow that left 15,000 vehicles stranded.

Local authorities were forced to set up shelters and arrange temporary accommodation to house those who were caught out by the extreme weather.

Across the Savoie department, people were trapped in chalets, cars and airports and travel plans were severely disrupted.

Due to snow and ice, the roads are in a treacherous condition. A man, 27, was killed when his car left the main road near Chambéry and dropped 200m in the Belledonne mountains.

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Tourists heading to ski resorts prepare to spend the night in an emergency accommodation centre after being stuck on the road due to heavy snowfalls

France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, has urged drivers to exercise the “utmost caution” and to delay their travel if possible.

At Chambéry airport more than 2,000, mainly British, tourists were unable to fly to their destinations.

Half are expected to be transferred to an emergency shelter in Aix-les-Bains and the remainder will be housed in a sports hall in Marlioz, near Annecy.

Roads to popular ski resorts, including Val d’Isere and the Three Valleys, have become clogged with traffic, as drivers stop to put snow chains on their vehicles. Police have been turning back cars that are not equipped for the hazardous conditions.

 

Gavin Rigby, a British man driving from Val d’Isere to Bourg Saint Maurice, told the BBC it had taken him 11 hours to travel a distance that would normally take him 30 minutes.

“The police should have got people to fit chains this morning after half a metre of snow fell last night,” he said.

At 9.15 on Sunday morning the Savioe prefecture again asked for motorists to delay their journeys and said that the “greatest vigilance” is required.

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Elsewhere in France, the port of Calais was closed owing to high winds of up to 100 mph, which toppled a fence designed to stop immigrants entering the secure area. Cross-channel ferry services were temporarily suspended.

And in Paris the gardens at Versailles were closed, because of the strong winds.

An orange weather alert, the second highest, has been issued by the French meteorological service for 12 departments, in the east of the country.

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