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Day of disruption in heavy snowfall

Tens of thousands hit as trains halted / 70km of traffic jams / 22,000 homes without power / Orange flood alert declared

HEAVY snowfalls of up to 14cm caused widespread disruption in the north with dozens of trains stuck, motorways jammed and 140,000 households without electricity.

This morning 22,000 families to the south of Lille and at Maubege woke up still without power.

Hundreds of passengers had to spend the night in sleeping cars and in hotels in Paris, Lille and Roissy after several incidents totally blocked rail traffic in the north-east.

TGVs were forced to run on normal main lines after an overhead power line was brought down and then traffic was halted completely when a TER train broke down.

Nearly 500 passengers on an Amsterdam-Paris Thalys high-speed train were stuck for nine hours between Combles and Chaulens in the Somme without power, food or electricity.

When they finally arrived at Arras late in the afternoon one passenger told Nouvel Observateur they had "no heating or electricity, just crisps, peanuts, soft drinks and vin rouge".

In Paris the north-south RER lines B and D were both halted after a passenger fell ill at Chatelet.

Traffic was completely disrupted on the line between Gard du Nord and Chatelet. SNCF says it is the busiest rail tunnel in the world with 1,000 trains per day.

Line H was also halted after an overhead power line failed.

Tens of thousands of passengers were affected with several jumping down on to the tracks between Gard du Nord and Chatelet to walk through the tunnel.

This affected getting services restarted and, while some trains were running by late in the evening, it was this morning before traffic resumed fully. Line B carries 900,000 travellers a day and Line D 550,000.

On the roads, the snow led to 70km of traffic jams with the worst affected routes being the A25 and RN41 between Bethune and Lille.

Lille-Lesquin airport was closed just during the afternoon, causing the cancellation of nearly a dozen flights.

Today Météo France issued an orange flood alert after the snow turned to heavy rain, causing flooding in rivers in Pas-de-Calais.

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