News ID: 209686
Published: 0610 GMT February 08, 2018

Just 15 centimeters of snow spells misery for Paris

Just 15 centimeters of snow spells misery for Paris

A recent snowfall has brought public transport in the French capital Paris and surrounding regions to a near halt, spelling misery for commuters.

The snow fell over the French capital and surrounding areas on Tuesday night, leaving Parisians faced with transport chaos on Wednesday morning, with roads gridlocked and trains and bus services suspended.

It also caused traffic jams that stretched a record 740 kilometers and left hundreds of others stuck at airports and train stations.

Rescue teams worked to evacuate about 2,000 people who were stranded overnight on the outskirts of Paris, prompting fury from drivers who said the route should have been closed off.

"I often go to Germany and I've never seen this there, even in the poorest and most isolated areas," said Rodrigue Akpadji, a German teacher who works in Saclay in the southern Paris suburbs.

Hundreds were forced to abandon their cars to sleep in emergency shelters overnight, with the ministry of interior describing the situation as "exceptional".

Though it was hardly the kind of snow that falls on northern European capitals like Stockholm, it was enough to paralyze public transport in Paris.

Many Parisians were left asking how the snow of less than 12 centimeters which everyone knew was coming could cause so much chaos.

The opposition party Les Republicains was scathing in its criticism of the government.

"This morning after hearing ministers' confused explanations the French people became aware of one thing: the government suddenly discovered that it snows in winter," the party said in a statement.

"How can we not be outraged by this amateurism and this total lack of anticipation?"

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo admitted that the capital had a problem with "the great vulnerability of transport networks."

"All public services throughout the region need to be far better prepared for exceptional events," she told French television.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux promised "lessons would be learned" but defended officials' response. 

The spokesman also simply pleaded that it was impossible to really predict the weather accurately. "It's hard to predict how many centimeters will fall."

The remarks come despite forecasts on Tuesday suggesting there would be 10 cm on average and up to 20 cm in the Paris area.

For her part, France's Transport Minister Elisabeth Bornesaid that the blockages were the result of the heaviest snow falling at the worst time.

"The heavy snow came at the peak of rush hour. That made it difficult for the snowplows and gritters to get through, because they got stuck in the traffic jams."

And while certain members of the public called for more to be made available, the government is reluctant to spend money to prepare for an event which rarely occurs.

Essentially the explanation to the question of how so little snow could cause so much chaos is that residents are just not used to it in Paris. The last major snowfall in Paris was in March 2013 which also caused travel chaos.

Memories are short, finances are thin and the world is getting warmer so when it does snow in Paris, it appears the authorities just going to have to accept the chaos or invest in a pair of skis.

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