PARIS (AFP) – Heavy snowfall brought both chaos and joy across Europe overnight Sunday, with some 15,000 people stranded overnight in the French Alps while skiers revelled in the fresh powder blanketing slopes.
A winter storm left thousands of Britons without power, sent trucks sliding across icy highways in Germany and caused airport delays and traffic disruptions across the region.
A Swiss national died and 30 people were injured, two of them seriously, in a highway pile-up some 40 kilometres from the Slovenian capital after heavy snow across the centre of the country, police said.
The abundant powder created idyllic conditions for skiers in France and Germany, who have anxiously been watching bare slopes as temperatures remained unseasonably warm in recent weeks.
But it also created havoc for holidaymakers rushing to and from ski resorts for their end-of-year vacations.
Authorities in the Savoie region of the French Alps said nearly 15,000 people had been housed in emergency shelters, while others were forced to spend the night in their cars.
“It took us 10 hours to go 130 kilometres,” said Kevin Clavel who was stuck in his car with four passengers.
Around 50 British holiday makers bitterly complained of inaction after they were stuck in a French gymnasium for a second night following heavy snowfall in Savoie.
“We’re still stuck in Albertville, where we were put to sleep with excuses for 28 hours,” said Sarah Stewart on Twitter, who was travelling with Britain’s Crystal Ski tour operator.
The heavy snows also brought the threat of avalanches, and one person died Sunday after being buried in a torrent of snow in the southern French Alps.
Icy conditions also caused the death of a 27-year-old man whose car slid into a ravine in the Belledonne mountain range.
France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve urged drivers “to exercise the utmost caution” and asked those who could delay their trips to do so.
The snow storm caused disruption in Britain where more than 100,000 homes were left without power and airports suffered delays.
In Germany, police reported dozens of weather-related accidents on Autobahn highways and country roads, with trucks sliding across icy lanes and creating a 20-kilometre traffic jam near the western city of Stuttgart.