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UPDATE: Swathes of France on alert for snow and ice as Siberian chill bites

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UPDATE: Swathes of France on alert for snow and ice as Siberian chill bites
The snow covered beach in Biarritz. Photo: AFP
17:36 CET+01:00
French weather authorities have placed swathes of France on alert for snow and ice, violent winds and flooding as the big chill which has gripped the country in recent days drags on. But spring is just days away.
 
 
 
 
Freezing weather continued to grip France on Wednesday, with temperatures down to -12C expected in northern France and -6C in the usually mild south, according to national weather agency Meteo France
 
In total, 58 departments in France are currently on orange alert -- the second highest weather warning -- for snow and ice, violent winds and flooding (see below). 
 
People in these departments have been advised to be very vigilant during the dangerous weather conditions. 
 
Map: Meteo France
 
Montpellier airport and Nimes airport in southern France are both closed as a result of the weather conditions. 
 
Biarritz in France's Basque country in the south west woke up to a blanket of snow several centimetres deep on Wednesday morning and people didn't waste any time capturing images of its snowy beaches (see below). 
 
Indeed, Tuesday night in France was the coldest of the winter, according to Meteo France, with the lowest temperatures seen in the central city of Lyon (-10C) and Metz in eastern France where it was an even chillier -12C. 
 
 
But while some are reveling in the unusual weather, others are struggling. 
 
Several flights flights out of Biarritz airport have been canceled and in Bayonne, also in the Basque Country, all lines have been suspended on the city's transport network. 
 
The town's beach, normally packed with sunseekers in the summer was left under a blanket of snow on Wednesday.
 
(Photo: François Xavier MENOU/Twitter)
 
A few brave swimmers braved the sea.
 
 
It was the same scene at snow-covered beach of Palavas Les Flots near Montpellier on the south coast (see images below).
 
 
 
 
 
On top of that the blanket of snow coating the A63 motorway, which leads to Spain, has led to several accidents. 
 
The Red Cross, which has set up emergency teams across Europe, also issued public appeals for 10,000 blankets in France, where about 50 local officials in the Paris region have vowed to spend Tuesday night outdoors to call attention to the plight of those with nowhere to sleep.
 
So far, four homeless people have died during this spell of icy weather. 
 
However the Siberian chill isn't set to last for long. 
 
After the snowfall spreads to the north of the country throughout the day on Thursday temperatures are expected to warm up quickly.
 
In the Basque country on Thursday, the snow will quickly be replaced by sun and the mercury is expected to rise to 17C.
 
Météo France forecaster Patrick Gallois said the rise in temperatures would be swift as France passes from winter to Spring in just 24 hours. Gallois told AFP that temperatures will rise by 10 degrees in just one day as the tweet below shows.
 
 
By Sunday the mercury is set to rise to around 15C in most of central and southern France.
 
Here are some more images of Biarritz in the snow. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
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