FEARS of avalanches have stranded around 50 children in a Pyrenean ski resort since Wednesday.
The primary school youngsters, all about 10 years old, from Saubens, near Toulouse, had been on a learn-to-ski day trip to the Haute-Garonne resort of Le Mourtis when the weather closed in.
Their bus driver decided the road down the valley was too dangerous to attempt and they stayed overnight in the well-equipped resort near the border of Haute-Garonne, Ariège and Spain.
On Thursday morning they were ready to set off when the snow eased – but an avalanche alert had been issued and the local sub-prefect stopped them. Bernard Bahut at Saint-Gaudens said it was too dangerous for them to proceed. He told TF1 news the road was crossed by snow-filled gullies and they were a well-known avalanche risk.
It is hoped the youngsters will make it back home later today and Mr Bahut has ordered that the snow gullies on the road be cleared and that the road be kept open.
Meanwhile, Météo-France has put eight departments in the north-west of France on Orange alert for snow and black ice and tomorrow. Ille-et-Vilaine, Mayenne, Sarthe, Calvados, Manche, Orne, Seine-Maritime and Eure are affected, with forecasters warning of up to 5cm of snow – and 10cm in higher areas.
The snowstorm is expected to move further east tomorrow morning before a thaw sets in over Sunday – bringing rain across a large part of the country.
In Landes, residents have been warned of a flooding risk, especially from the Adour.