Snow leaves thousands of holidaymakers stranded in French Alps
Heavy snowfall in the French Alps left some 15,000 drivers stranded Saturday, prompting officials to open emergency shelters and urge travellers to stay home.
The snow and ice hit as a rush of holidaymakers were heading to and leaving from ski resorts in the Savoie region in southeastern France, where authorities set up shelters in at least 12 towns.
The snow and freezing rain also caused the death of a 27-year-old man whose car slid into a ravine in the Belledonne mountain range.
France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a statement urged drivers "to exercise the utmost caution" and asked those who could delay their trips to do so.
The country declared an orange weather alert -- one step under the maximum red alert -- in 19 departments.
France's meteorological services said they expected more snowfall and "significant re-freezing" Saturday night and warned of slippery roads.
Elsewhere in France it was wind and not snow that wrought havoc for holiday travellers.
Storms packing gusts of up to 160 kilometres (100 miles) per hour forced the temporary closure of France's port of Calais on the English Channel and the suspension of car ferries to and from Britain.
Strong winds also forced the closure of the gardens of the famed chateau of Versailles near Paris.
Snow caused disruption in Britain too, leading to power shortages in more than 100,000 homes and delays at airports.
The heaviest snow was in Leek, western central England, where 11 centimetres (4.3 inches) fell.
Flights to European destinations took off with delays from Manchester Airport, the third-biggest in Britain.
Forecasters predict that temperatures in Britain could drop as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) next week.
© 2014 AFP