Thirty French departments were on alert Saturday, hit by snow and ice as many city-dwellers left for Christmas holidays.
Heavy snow hit the Channel coast and moved south across Paris and the Loire valley Saturday. The snow was heavier than predicted in the Paris region at 5-10cm and is expected to last until 9pm Sunday.
The Eurostar link with the UK is suffering delays of up to 60 minutes.
In the south-eastern city of Grenoble a motorist died after losing control of his vehicle, which overturned in fresh snow.
Elsewhere in Europe:
- In Italy the fountains of Rome turned to ice, hundreds of motorists were trapped on the roads overnight, especially in Tuscany – Florence and Pisa airports were closed but expected to reopen Saturday afternoon;
- In Britain near-record levels of snow closed Heathrow and Gatwick airports, slowed down trains, forced motorists to spend the night in their vehicles and caused traffic accidents;
- In Ireland forecasters warned that severe cold and snow will continue into next week;
- In Germany airline passengers were hit by long delays, motorists were caught in tailbacks as long as 40km and some areas saw petrol shortages as tankers were trapped in traffic;
- In Bulgaria the largest Black Sea port of Varna was shut Friday afternoon, while snow cut the road south from the capital, Sofia.