Heavy snow paralyzes Paris causing misery for commuters

Exceptionally heavy snowfall covers motorcycles as they stand on a street in Paris on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 February 2018

Heavy snow paralyzes Paris causing misery for commuters

PARIS: Exceptionally heavy snowfall brought public transport in Paris and surrounding regions to a near halt Wednesday, spelling misery for commuters after hundreds were forced to abandon their cars to sleep in emergency shelters overnight.
Icy streets were largely empty as officials urged people to leave vehicles at home following the 12 cms of snow that blanketed the capital, shutting down some tram and commuter rail lines, and almost completely halting bus services.
Officials had opened 46 shelters in the greater Paris region for more than 600 people stranded by the snow, while about 700 had to spend the night at the Montparnasse and Austerlitz train stations in Paris.
Some 230 people were had to sleep as best they could at Orly airport.
Operations were still disrupted at Orly and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport Wednesday, with some flights facing delays while other travelers remained stuck.
At Charles de Gaulle airport, officials announced over loudspeakers that all suburban train connections to Paris had been canceled for at least several hours.
A dozen perplexed passengers waited outside a railway ticket office at one terminal.
“I tried to get into Paris by train. I was sitting on a train for half an hour and then everyone got up and left,” said Paul Farberman, a 66-year-old music industry executive who had just flown in from Los Angeles.
“They said there are no trains and no buses,” he added. “I love Paris. I would just love to get there and see it.”
Evacuations were still under way for the 1,500 to 2,000 people stranded on a highway south of Paris, prompting anger from drivers who said the route should have been closed to traffic sooner.
One driver, Antonio De Lemos, told AFP he had been “stuck in the snow since 5 pm” and spent the night in his car.
“It’s a natural event, but it’s not normal because they leave all the roads blocked, without salting them” to remove the ice, he said.
Forecasts for even lower temperatures are likely to freeze the heavy snow in place, making conditions even more treacherous, the Meteo France weather service said.
“We’re dealing with an exceptional situation,” interior ministry spokesman Frederic de Lanouvelle told AFP, urging people “not to use their vehicles.”
Some 25 departments across much of the northern half of France were on alert for snow and black ice, and more snow is expected to hit the country from Friday.
Paris police also urged people to leave their cars at home in order to avoid traffic jams and facilitate the work of rescue services and tow trucks.
Police had also closed major highways near Paris to lorries, and rail operator SNCF told clients to postpone their trips if possible.
Slobodan, a 46-year-old sales representative, said he had spent the night “going from cafe to cafe” near the Gare du Nord station in Paris after his train was canceled Tuesday night.
He had been hoping to make it home early Wednesday “to take a shower, change clothes and get back to work at La Defense,” the business district west of the capital.
But “all trains toward the suburbs have been canceled since 5:00 am,” he told AFP.
In addition, school buses were not running in several areas near Paris and other northern and central regions.

Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency

Updated 29 March 2020

Mali holds election despite coronavirus and insurgency

  • The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead
  • Polls opened on Sunday and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said

BAMAKO: Mali held its long-delayed parliamentary election on Sunday despite an insurgency in its central and northern regions, concerns about coronavirus and the recent kidnapping of the main opposition leader.

The election, originally scheduled for 2018, has been postponed twice because of intensifying violence in parts of Mali where the government struggles to suppress jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

The coronavirus pandemic has posed a further threat to the vote but authorities in the West African nation have insisted it will go ahead, promising to enforce additional hygiene measures to protect Mali's 7.6 million voters.

"The government will do everything to make sure this is the case," President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said in the run-up to the election.
Mali had confirmed 20 cases of coronavirus as of Sunday morning.

Polls opened on Sunday at 0800 and turnout in the capital Bamako appeared low, a Reuters witness said.

There was no queue at one polling station, which allowed voters to cast their ballot while keeping the recommended distance from each other. Handwashing facilities were meant to be available, but the kits arrived too late for early voters.

"I voted without a problem, but the hygiene kit against coronavirus wasn't there," said 30-year-old driver Ibrahim Konare. "The priority for the new parliament should be the fight against insecurity and the eradication of coronavirus."

It was not clear how voting was going in the large areas of central and northern Mali that are effectively lawless and used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Mali's main opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was ambushed last week while on the campaign trail in the northern region of Timbuktu. The attackers killed Cisse's bodyguard and took Cisse and six members of his delegation hostage. They have not been seen since.

The election will select 147 lawmakers for the national assembly, which has not had a mandate since 2018 because of the electoral delays.
Polling stations close at 1800 GMT with results due in the coming days. A second round is scheduled for April 19 in constituencies where no candidate wins a majority.