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Ministers slip on snow warnings

Joke is on ministers after they blame weathermen for snow chaos that paralysed Paris and the Ile-de-France

10 December 2010

AS TRAFFIC returned to normal across the Ile-de-France, ministers are meeting today for a debriefing on the snow that brought misery to Paris ... and as far as Moscow.

Top of their agenda is unlikely to be how Prime Minister François Fillon in Moscow and interior minister Brice Hortefeux in Paris managed to miss warning of heavy snow that Météo France put out on Tuesday afternoon.

The ministers were the butt of jokes in national newspapers after blaming Météo France for the weather and resultant chaos on the roads that saw thousands sleeping in shelters or in their workplaces in Paris, and hundreds more sleeping in cars trapped on iced-up roads.

Many key routes into Paris were jammed, either by snow, ice or abandoned vehicles; flights from Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports were suspended for several hours; thousands of lorries were penned in aires to avoid clogging the roads; and the Eiffel Tower was shut.

Government officials admitted to several news media that Mr Fillon had been “a bit strong” in his condemnation of Météo France when he accused the weathermen of “not warning of this snowfall, in any case, not warning of its intensity”.

Mr Hortefeux, who on Wednesday said there was no risk of drivers being stranded in their cars, had to admit that nearly 1,000 had been stranded in vehicles overnight as a “weather event unknown for a generation” hit the capital.

However, the CGT union at Météo France said forecasters had warned on Tuesday that there could be snowfalls of more than 10 centimetres and that it would be windblown and sticky. Today the forecasters added that such snowfalls were not rare, and the last one in the Ile-de-France was in 2005.

Today orange flood alerts have been issued for seven departments in the north-east – Bas-Rhin, Doubs, Jura, Haute-Marne, Haute-Saône, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Moselle – as Météo France warned of the risk from meltwaters.

Weather map: Météo France

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