Snow paralyses Marseille, France's second city

Wed Jan 7, 2009 7:10am EST
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MARSEILLE, France (Reuters) - Heavy snowfall in Marseille forced the international airport to close and paralyzed all train and bus traffic on Wednesday in France's second-biggest city.

The usually busy and sunny Mediterranean port city ground to a halt as snow overwhelmed infrastructure and stopped school buses and all other public transport.

"The weather conditions no longer allow air traffic to take place in satisfactory conditions so the airport of Marseille Provence is closed to air traffic," a spokesman said.

The airport was expected to remain closed at least until Thursday morning, management said.

France is experiencing a cold weather snap that has gradually moved from north to south. Electricity consumption has hit record levels as families turn up home heating.

Rail, road and air traffic have been disrupted for several days, notably at the main airport in the Paris region, Charles de Gaulle.

Secretary of State for Transport Dominique Bussereau demanded an investigation on Wednesday into "unacceptable" chaos at Charles de Gaulle, where hundreds of flights were canceled and thousands of passengers stranded earlier this week.

In Marseille, the main Saint Charles train station was paralysed as signaling froze. School buses were canceled in the entire Bouches du Rhone administrative area, where Marseille is located.

(Reporting by Jean-Francois Rosnoblet, writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Charles Dick)

<p>People walk past boats on the Old Port after heavy snowfall in Marseille January 7, 2009. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>