Heavy snowfall in Paris has shut the Eiffel Tower and wreaked havoc across the French capital, with thousands of people trapped in their cars and in train stations overnight.
French authorities were caught off-guard when the cold snap hit on Tuesday afternoon, grinding trains to a halt and causing severe travel disruption across Paris and northern France.
Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said authorities had worked to prevent travel chaos as much as possible but told RTL radio: “We’re facing an exceptional episode.”
Makeshift shelters at roadsides were set up for commuters and the homeless after roads were not cleared on time and grit failed to clear the six inches of snow.
“We did everything we could to anticipate this situation,” said Johanna Primevert, a spokeswoman for the Paris police department, speaking to RTL radio.
The Meteo France weather service placed 28 French departments on orange alert, including eight in the Paris region, over the dangerous weather conditions and icy roads.
Many commuters were left stranded outside the city on Tuesday with inner-city bus services cancelled and some metro lines heavily disrupted.
Several flights from Paris airports were also cancelled or delayed.
Some regional train services and school buses remained out of action on Wednesday.
Meteo France says the snowfall will intensify on Wednesday, with temperatures expected to fall as low as -10C with snowfall accumulation reaching 10cms (4ins).
In anticipation of the cold snap, the “Grand Froid” plan had been launched earlier this week in 22 departments in order to create about 1,000 extra housing places for homeless people.