Unseasonal snowstorms sweep across central France, cause road chaos

PARIS (Reuters) - Heavy snowfall across south-central France, with up to 40 centimeters (16 inches) falling in some towns and villages, has caused chaos on the roads and knocked out electricity to nearly 200,000 homes, authorities said on Tuesday.

The unseasonal and unexpectedly large snowstorms hit across Auverge-Rhone-Alpes and nearby regions, south and west of Lyon. TV footage showed thick blankets of snow falling across highways and in towns, with hundreds of vehicles brought to a halt.

Some 900 trucks were stranded overnight and several hundred drivers abandoned their cars to find a warm and safe place to stay the night. People posted messages on Facebook asking to be rescued. Snow ploughs were deployed to clear roads.

French energy distributor Enedis said 195,000 homes were without power in two central regions of the country, Limousin and Centre Val de Loire, with workers on the ground trying to reestablish connections.

Weather forecasters dismissed criticism that they had not provided warnings, saying they had been predicting for several days that bad weather could strike the area as storms and heavy rains wash across Italy and the island of Corsica.

Writing by Luke Baker, editing by Ed Osmond