Snow storm leaves four dead, thousands stranded in French Alps

Four dead, 15,000 stranded after heavy snowfall batter French Alps.  

Snow and ice leaves thousands stranded in French Alps.
Snow and ice leaves thousands stranded in French Alps.

Over 15,000 people were stranded while others were forced to seek emergency shelter after heavy snow and ice battered the French Alps on Sunday.

The country declared an orange weather alert, its second-highest, as local authorities scrambled to put up motorists for the night.

Traffic remained heavy while one man died when his car left the main road and fell 200 metres down a mountainside in the Isere region.

Three people died in other snow-related incidents across France earlier this week, according to French daily Le Monde.

The government asked drivers to "exercise the utmost caution" and avoid travel if possible. Many cars were not equipped with snow chains despite official warnings; the authorities have since declared them compulsory on certain routes.

Snowy conditions in the French Alps are expected to persist into Sunday, followed by freezing weather next week when Paris should see its first frosts in more than a year, French weather forecasters say.

More than eighty emergency shelters were crammed full overnight, while the authorities said they had no idea how many people had spent the night in their cars.

“I think it’s been more than 10 years since we have triggered an emergency plan like this, so it is a little bit unusual. And it’s really the number (of people)… I don’t think I have the figures, but it’s really extraordinary,” said Lydie, a volunteer at a shelter known as ‘La Pierre du Roy’ told Reuters.

Strong winds caused damage elsewhere in France, shutting the port of Calais, where an anti-migrant fence was partially toppled.

Heavy snow caused disruption to roads in Germany too, causing a 25km (16-mile) traffic jam on the A8 motorway near Stuttgart.

In the UK, the Met Office issued warnings of ice across the country and snow in some areas. Hundreds of homes were without power in parts of England, including nearly 500 in the East Midlands and nearly 300 in Devon.

Several flights from the UK were also delayed or diverted due to the heavy snowfall. The cold snap is also expected to grip Malta, with the MET Office warning of gale-force winds and plummeting temperatures.