“C’est l’hiver avant l’heure;” or ‘it is winter before it should be’, was one local person’s reaction to heavy snow falls which have hit eastern parts of France.
The cold snap brought power cuts with up to 50,000 households in the Isere region in the Alps deprived of electricity.
Authorities have issued an “Orange” warning, the second highest alert, and rescue services have been fully mobilised.
Up to 50 centimetres of snow fell in some parts making driving hazardous. An icy wind and fresh falls of snow on top of the ice only added to the dangerous conditions.
Many drivers were forced to abandon their cars while emergency services were called to clear trees from roads felled in the high winds, with gusts blowing up to 130 kilometres per hour recorded in one area.
Parts of the south of France were the worst hit by the high winds where on the riviera two people have been reported missing.
A search has been mounted for a 12-year-old boy on the island of Porquerolles. Emergency services say his bike has been found. A 26-year-old windsurfer is also missing.
In the port of Marseille the ferry Napoleon Bonaparte was damaged when strong winds broke the ship’s moorings.
The hull smashed against the dock flooding two of its watertight compartments.