Lyon, March 29, 2019 (AFP) - A fierce fire broke out at a hotel in the upscale French Alps ski resort of Megeve, forcing the evacuation of around 180 people though no injuries were reported, officials said Friday. The blaze was discovered on the wooden roof of the chalet-style Four Seasons hotel at around 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) on Thursday, and 70 firefighters worked throughout the night to bring the fire under control by Friday morning. Officials said the building's fire alarms did not go off immediately, but the estimated 60 guests and 120 staff at the site were outside the building even before firefighters arrived. Evacuees are being housed elsewhere during the investigation into the cause of the blaze, which local newspaper Le Dauphine Libere said might have been started by a chimney fire.
The five-star hotel, whose restaurant holds two Michelin stars, belongs to the Rothschild family, which began developing Megeve in the 1920s to rival the luxurious St. Moritz in Switzerland. It was the second major fire to strike a French Alps ski resort this winter, after a suspected arson attack at a residence for seasonal workers in Courchevel in January left two people dead. On Tuesday, sources close to that investigation said a man was arrested this week for questioning. The man, in his 30s, was seen by several witnesses in Courchevel when the fire occurred and was arrested on the France-Spain border by police investigating an unrelated case, according to a report by RTL radio.
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2019 16:19:02 +0100
Paris, March 17, 2019 (AFP) - Eurostar trains from Paris to London were hit by cancellations and "severe delays" on Sunday as French customs officers staged work-to-rule industrial action. The customs officers are demanding higher pay and better working conditions while seeking to demonstrate what might happen if full border controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union.
Paris-to-London trains were experiencing "severe delays and lengthy queues for our services," Eurostar said on its website. "We strongly recommend that you do not travel today." Four trains had been cancelled by lunchtime on Sunday, with another three on Monday and one on Tuesday. Sunday's work-to-rule was just the latest in a string of strike actions by the French customs officers.
Work-to-rule strikes began in early March, in the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais, northern France, leading to long delays for trucks waiting to cross to Britain. The customs workers want better pay but also more staff to cope with British travellers who will no longer have European passports once the UK leaves the European Union.
Brexit is due to happen on March 29 but looks increasingly likely to be delayed as the British parliament is yet to agree on a divorce plan. On Wednesday French unions representing the around 17,000 customs workers rejected a government offer of a 14 million euro ($15.8 million) payroll boost, saying it was insufficient.
Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2019 14:11:47 +0100
Paris, March 7, 2019 (AFP) - Eurostar trains from Paris to London were running up to two hours late and trucks stacked up in Channel ports on Thursday as French customs officers staged the fourth day of a Brexit-related strike. The customs officers are pressing demands for higher pay and better working conditions while seeking to demonstrate what might happen if full border controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, as planned later this month.
Thursday was the first day that customs officers in Paris joined in the work-to-rule action. "Ongoing disruptions are affecting all trains departing Paris-Nord (railway station) and can lead to delays of up to 120 minutes," Eurostar told AFP as customs' checks led to long queues of passengers waiting to board trains. One train was cancelled. The work-to-rule strikes, which began Monday, have led to long delays for trucks waiting to cross the Channel to Britain, notably in Dunkirk and Calais. "Traffic is very heavy but it slowly moving and ferry services are working flat out," Calais port authorities said.
The flow of trucks using the Channel tunnel was back to its average of 150 trucks an hour, but "there are still a lot of trucks on the road" as local authorities had stopped them earlier at motorway service areas to avoid clogging traffic, officials said. AFP correspondents said trucks were backed up several miles on the A16 motorway near Calais. Customs officers are demanding "greater purchasing power, more staff and more help to deal with Brexit," Vincent Thomazo, a Unsa trade union representative told AFP. The government minister in charge of customs, Gerald Darmanin, told AFP he would meet customs officers' representatives on Tuesday.
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2019 12:12:38 +0100
Calais, France, March 5, 2019 (AFP) - French customs officials warned of lengthy delays at the port of Calais on Tuesday as their work-to-rule strike snarled traffic for a second day, leading to queues of trucks several kilometres (miles) long. Customs agents began their protest on Monday to press their demands for higher pay and demonstrate what will happen if greater controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union, planned for later this month. "Agents are doing longer checks than usual and it creates traffic jams immediately," Vincent Thomazo from the UNSA union said. "It's a strike that might last a long time because officers are just doing their jobs."
Trade unions have called for an increase in overnight pay, a danger allowance, and more staff to help with the extra work which is expected once Britain breaks away from the EU. The French government has announced the recruitment of an extra 700 customs officials to cope with the demands of Brexit, but unions want more. On Tuesday there were several kilometres of trucks backed up along the A16 motorway which leads to the port of Calais and the entrance to the Channel tunnel which links France and Britain. Some truckers sounded their horns in frustration, fearing a repeat of the chaos on Monday when many had to wait six or seven hours to get on boats or trains heading for Britain.
Around Dunkirk, another major port handling freight between the neighbours, traffic was moving freely, unlike on Monday, local officials said. The head of customs services at Calais, Rodolphe Gintz, told AFP that the strike had "absolutely nothing" to do with Brexit. "It won't happen like this. We are not going to create queues of trucks. We're not going to inspect every truck one after the other for a minute," he said on Monday. He explained that controls would be in the other direction -- on trucks arriving from Britain -- and that there would be extra resources if necessary. The leader of the Hauts-de-France region, which includes Calais and Dunkirk, told AFP last month that fears about monster traffic jams after Brexit were overblown. "From our point of view, for the ports and the tunnel, we will be ready," Xavier Bertrand told AFP.
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2019 18:26:58 +0100
Gap, France, March 1, 2019 (AFP) - A 61-year-old British man was killed Friday after being caught in an avalanche while cross-country skiing in the French Alps, authorities said. The man was part of a group being led by two guides on a trail in Le Monetier-les-Bains, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) east of Grenoble, when the avalanche started on a slope about 100 metres (yards) above them.
One of the guides sustained minor injuries and was hospitalised, local prosecutor Raphael Balland said. According to France's national snow and avalanche research association ANENA, six people have been killed and one other has disappeared in avalanches so far this winter. Last year the association recorded 37 avalanche deaths.