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Surprise snow in southern France

media Cleaning up the beach in Cannes the day after high waves hit the southern … Reuters

Thousands of homes are without electricity in the south-west of France, after a surprise snowstorm hit the region Tuesday. Raging winds also caused huge waves along the French Riviera, where the Cannes Film Festival is due to open next week.

Some 10,000 households were reconnected to the electricity grid Wednesday. On Tuesday 23,000 were cut off when tree branches weighed down with snow broke and snapped power lines.

The electricity company called it "an exceptional situation for the season".

Snow shut down the Perpignan airport, and flights were cancelled in Montpellier.

The French weather service has issued an avalanche alert in the Pyrenees mountains this morning.

France 24 TV report

On the Côte d'Azur, ten-metre high waves battered the coast, injuring a woman and damaging shops and cars.

About 20 restaurants were damaged in Cannes, which is getting ready for its annual international film festival, to be held this year from 12-23 May.

Beaches in Nice were destroyed by the waves, and its renowned Promenade des Anglais has been closed.

The mayors of Cannes, Nice and neighbouring towns have appealed to have their region declared a natural disaster zone, though the amount of material damage has not yet been calculated.

The massive waves, caused by stormy  weather which hits the area every 15-20 years, are known locally as the cavaliers de mai (May horsemen).

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