TENS of thousands of homes around France have been hit by power cuts as heavy snow and freezing temperatures blast the country.
The coldest place in France this morning was Orléans, in the Loiret, which recorded -14°C. The department was among the worst-affected by power cuts yesterday, with 15,000 properties cut off for several hours.
Heavy snow also brought down power lines in the Manche, where 15,000 homes were cut off at the weekend, and large parts of the south-west, including the Dordogne, where about 5,000 people were affected. In most cases the supply was restored within a few hours.
This morning, Météo France has issued an orange alert for 15 departments, mostly in the centre and east of the country, from the Lozère and the Auvergne to the Jura. The forecaster says the cold snap will continue until at least Thursday night.
School buses are not running today in the Loiret, Loir-et-Cher and Meurthe-et-Moselle.
Brittany, which recorded -10°C this morning, is the region most at risk of power cuts in the coming days. Electricity supplier RTE has recommended that homes attempt to reduce their consumption during the early-evening peak of 18.00-20.00.
The cold spell has claimed its first victim: a 78-year-old homeless man died outside a shopping centre in Ivry-sur-Seine in the Val-de-Marne yesterday.
Many shelters that were opened up last week by mairies to welcome homeless people are already full. Emmaüs, which runs 65 centres around France capable of handling 3,000 people, has opened three additional centres in Paris and the near suburbs to cope with demand.
The Croix Rouge has set up hot food distribution points in various towns and cities, and the Restos du Coeur winter campaign started yesterday.
The Direction Générale de la Santé says 42 people have been hospitalised in the past three days as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.