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Winter storms hit France, Europe; flights disrupted

December 2nd, 2010 No comments

As you have probably seen on the news, snow and cold weather has hit large parts of Europe, including a good portion of France. Although Paris has been spared most of the snow, it is still quite cold here, in the low 20’s at night (-7 Celsius), more like an average Chicago winter day. But in other parts of France, my friends in Grenoble, Lyon, Annecy, Eastern France all report anywhere between 8 and 16 inches of snow, so it’s quite a significant snowfall. England and Germany have been hit hard, as well as Poland, Italy and several other countries.

You can get updates for France from Le Point where they say that likely 25% of flights at Roissy CDG are cancelled and 10% at Orly for Thursday. But they said snow will last another 24 hours in France before likely turning to rain. Authorities are having a difficult time de-icing and salting highways, so be careful driving in France. Here is a map of temperatures (Celsius) for Thursday in France.

CNN also covers the storm in Europe, and flights at airports like London Gatwick, Frankfurt and Munich have been significantly disrupted with cancellations and major delays (NB their 3rd picture is Lyon’s Place Bellecour). BBC writes that flights have been severely disrupted as well in Brussels, Vienna, Dusseldorf, Amsterdam, Geneva, Berlin, London Heathrow and Prague. Over 3,000 people in high-speed German trains had to spend the night in the train as they were blocked by weather. They too have pictures of the storm in Europe (once again with 4th picture in Lyon).

You can get travel updates for Paris airports here. Check with your airline as well and the airports for your cities. France24 has a comprehensive guide for travel in snow-covered France and Europe. High-speed rail like TGV in France has been somewhat delayed. Check Infolignes SNCF for alerts.

For French weather, check Météo France. Bundle up, save travels!

This just in: French strikes planned for Oct. 19, fuel supply to Paris airports cut

October 15th, 2010 1 comment

Wow, French unions are calling for yet another “day of action”, this time for Tuesday Oct. 19. This will combine public transport strikes and high school closings, as well as a continuation of the blockade of oil refineries that is threatening to cut supply in the country.

The French government is being urged by oil representatives to open up the emergency supply of provisions, as they state there are only 10 days worth of stock left. All of 12 French refineries have been either shut down or blockaded by protesting workers, leading to this situation, but riot police have successfully intervened and reopened 4 refineries. However, the fuel supply to the 2 main airports in Paris, Orly and Charles de Gaulle, has been cut. Consequently, CDG could run out of fuel by next week, whereas estimates on stock for Orly are for another 17 days. See article below for more information. You can also look at the Paris airports website for information. Check with your airline companies too.

As BBC notes in this insightful report, President Nicolas Sarkozy is facing record low approval ratings, but he has insisted that his government will not cede in the midst of opposition to pension reform. Meanwhile Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry and others from the left are calling for renegotiations, but the left remains split between those who would be willing to raise the age to 62 amid concessions and those who do not want to negotiate. The President of UMP (Sarkozy’s center-right party) in the Sénat, Gérard Longuet, has called out the Socialists as hyocrites for suggesting retirement age 60 because people would not be able to get full pension.

The UMP’s youth and student arm is trying to reach out to high schoolers in the midst of strikes and protests to inform them about the retirement reform; you will see many students protesting, but dig deeper and often they are not that informed.

Stay tuned. I will update my blog on Oct. 18 with pertinent transport info for the country. Meanwhile, watch out for disgruntled strikes tomorrow (Saturday Oct 16) as protests are planned for around the country as well that day. Hang in there!

Fuel supplies to Paris’ main airports through a major pipeline have been cut off amid strikes over pension reforms.

“The company that operates the pipeline told French media that the capital’s main airport, Charles de Gaulle, could run out of fuel as early as next week. There are fears of fuel shortages as all of France’s 12 oil refineries have been hit by strikes, and many oil depots remain blockaded.

Unions are opposed to government plans to raise the retirement age. Trapil, the firm that operates the pipeline to Paris’ airports, said supplies had been cut off on Friday.

A company spokesman told AFP news agency: “Orly airport has stocks for 17 days, and Roissy [Charles de Gaulle] for at least the weekend.”

In recent days government officials have tried to play down fears of petrol shortages, insisting that France has enough to see out the industrial action.However, panic buying has broken out in some areas, putting supplies under greater strain.

Earlier in Friday, riot police reopened oil deports that had been blockaded in Fos-sur-Mer in the south; Cournon in central France; and Lespinasse and Bassens in the south-west, AFP reported. French Junior Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau told reporters: “We cannot afford petrol shortages. One must bear in mind those of us who need transport.”

However, new blockades were set up at least five other fuel depots.

On Thursday, France’s petrol distributors urged the government to release emergency fuel stocks, warning that only 10 days’ fuel was left. Demand at petrol pumps has surged by 50% in the past two days.

In the port of Marseille, more than 70 ships carrying crude for refining are stranded as dockers continue their rolling strike.The protests erupted after centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy announced plans to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, and from 65 to 67 for a full state pension.

More than a million people took to the streets in the latest national protest on Tuesday. France’s main unions have since stepped up their action, calling for the fifth in a series of strikes and street protests on 19 October. Students, who joined Tuesday’s demonstrations in large numbers, held further protests on Friday. More than 300 secondary schools across France – about one in 15 – remain affected by strikes and blockades.

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