A WAVE of cold weather sweeping down from Scandanavia at the weekend saw winds of 130kph that knocked out power to more than 50,000 homes, stranded motorists in snow, killed three people and left rescuers searching for two others, including a 12-year-old British boy.
The youngster, Pierre Barnes, is feared to have been blown off his bicycle while out for a ride in a storm on the island of Porquerolles, off Toulon.
He and his family, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, had just arrived to start the half-term holiday and he had set off into the forest for a cycle ride. His bicycle and a shoe were discovered on a coastal path in the south-west of the island.
The search last night was abandoned in 80kph winds but restarted this morning, with extra military personnel brought in to help.
In Hérault, searchers were also looking for a windsurfer who vanished off Sérignan.
In Paris, a homeless man in the 17th arrondissement is thought to have been killed by the cold as temperatures in the capital fell to 2.3C from the normal 7C.
In Toulon, two students died on Friday when they were swept away by floodwaters into a culvert on the campus of the city's university.
Six departments were put on weather alert by Météo France and storms brought down trees and power lines across the east and south-east of the country.
Thirty thousand households were left without power in Savoie, Haute-Savoie and Isère, while 23,000 were blacked-out in Drôme and Ardèche. Despite intense efforts by repair teams from national grid operator ERDF, more than 6,500 households woke up with no power this morning, but were expected to be reconnected during the day.
Snow closed several passes in the Alps and Mercantour and 40 motorists had to shelter overnight in a hall in Laffrey in Isère after being caught in snow between Gap and Grenoble.
Winds which hit 130kph at Murs in Vaucluse caused two spectacular accidents: a Corsica ferry was torn from her moorings in Marseille port and thrown on to the quayside and, in Puy-de-Dôme, the Panoramique des Dômes volcano tourist train was blown off the tracks.
No passengers were on the SNCM ferry, which was holed in the side and was taking in water.
The storm also caused the cancellation of the Marseille-Lyon football match.
See the ferry Napoléon Bonaparte on the quayside at Marseille in this TF1 report