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But the wintry weather was a delight for schoolchildren as well
as a gaggle of skiers and snowboarders who gathered at the Sacre-Coeur
basilica at the top of Montmartre, the hill in the north of the city.
They managed to get in about an hour of runs in the morning on the
steep slopes of the park that descends from the church before being
chased off by the police. "The snow is good, a little powdery, not
as great as in 2010 but 2010 was historic," said Gilles Prunevielle,
founder of the "Montmartre Ski Club", bearing a sweatshirt with the
club's logo and altitude -- 130 metres above sea level. Tourists
in the City of Lights found the Eiffel Tower closed for a second day,
while the capital's airports were hit with delays and cancellations.
French car-making giants Renault and PSA meanwhile said they had
been forced to halt production at their factories in the Paris suburbs
as the ban on lorry transport left them short on car parts. - 'Exceptional
situation' - On the outskirts of Paris, rescuers w
orked to evacuate nearly 2,000 people who were stranded overnight
on the N118 highway, prompting anger from drivers who said the route
should have been closed off. "I didn't sleep at all," said Rodrigue
Akpadji, a German teacher who works in Saclay in the southern Paris
suburbs, as the tailbacks continued to stretch 200 kilometres on Wednesday
morning. "I often go to Germany and I've never seen this there,
even in the poorest and most isolated areas. This kind of thing is
unimaginable there. We have to be able to plan for it." Paris mayor
Anne Hidalgo admitted the capital had a "problem" with "the great
vulnerability of transport networks." "All public services throughout
the region need to be far better prepared for exceptional events,"
she told French television. Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux
promised "lessons would be learned" but defended officials' response,
saying: "It's hard to know at 8:00 in the morning that roads will
be blocked at 2:00 pm." National forecaster Meteo France war
ned that temperatures were set to fall further into Thursday, freezing
the heavy snow in place and making conditions even more treacherous.
Regional authorities opened 46 shelters that took in more than 600
people, while about 700 had to spend Tuesday night at the Montparnasse
and Austerlitz train stations in Paris. Some 230 people had to sleep
at Orly airport south of Paris, while passengers arriving in the capital
were greeted with delayed trains to the city centre and few taxis
willing to brave the roads. "I love Paris. I would just love to
get there and see it," said Paul Farberman, a 66-year-old music industry
executive who had just flown in from Los Angeles.