Freak weather hits south of France

Avalanche alert in the Pyrenees this morning

Six-metre waves on the Côte d'Azur, snow in Carcassonne and fierce winds in Montpellier - but the worst is over

METEO France has issued an avalanche alert in the Pyrenees this morning, as large parts of the south of France count the cost of damage from freak winter weather.

Winds of up to 120kph hit the Midi-Pyrénées and the Languedoc-Roussillon. Snow fell in Carcassonne, and waves of up to six metres hit the Côte d'Azur.

The "orange" weather alert has been lifted in most places, except in the Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales, where strong winds will persist this morning.

Fierce waves yesterday afternoon forced the closure of part of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and overturned cars near the Croisette in Cannes, which is preparing for next week's film festival.

There were no reported casualties but the owners of several beach-side shops and restaurants say their premises have been badly damaged.

Nice mayor Christian Estrosi said the Côte d'Azur had not seen waves of this height since winter 1985 - and never as late in the year as May. He has asked for the region to be classified as a natural disaster zone.

In the Ariège, 23,000 homes lost their electricity supply as trees fell on power lines. EDF says it could take up to 48 hours to restore the supply to some homes.

Flights out of Montpellier were cancelled because of the wind. There was snow in Carcassonne, where the temperature has dropped 20°C in just a few days.

Météo France says the unseasonal weather will continue into the weekend, but temperatures will rise again to 18-19°C at the start of next week.

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