20240109 paris
A sign reading 'Traffic Prohibited' on snow-covered ground in La Defense business district during freezing temperatures in Paris, France. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Paris: French authorities temporarily closed two motorways on Tuesday as authorities scrambled to deploy salt trucks and tow vehicles after a cold wave hit the country.

"Everything is being done to resolve this as fast as possible," Transport Minister Clement Beaune said on Tuesday morning, when 400 vehicles were blocked on icy roads in the Paris region.

Beaune, whose future is uncertain ahead of an expected cabinet reshuffle, argued the national weather agency had not predicted the snow overnight.

He told radio broadcaster RMC that the situation was improving since 1,000 trucks and cars had initially been blocked on the roads near the capital at the start of the night.

The A13 and A12 motorways west of Paris were cordoned off "to guarantee commuters' safety", police said.

A 10-kilometre (six-mile) stretch of the A13, which connects the capital to western France, would be closed all morning, the transport ministry said.

Thermometers across the country were forecast to drop below zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, except for a tiny sliver of southeastern France, according to the national weather office.

Nine departments were on "orange alert" because of icy roads and snow, while two in the north were on the same alert level because of floods last week, it said.

The cold was expected to compound problems in the northern region of Pas-de-Calais near the Belgian border, which has seen devastating floods in recent weeks.

In the northern town of Blendecques, the frosty weather turned mud on the roads to ice.

Two departments in northwest France halted school transport for the day.

On Monday, Deputy Minister for Housing Patrice Vergriete said 120 million euros ($130 million) had been earmarked to provide emergency shelter for some 10,000 homeless people, especially women and children.

Around 3,000 women and children could be in need of shelter, according to estimates by the United Nations children's agency UNICEF and non-governmental organisations.The A13 and A12 motorways west of Paris were cordoned off "to guarantee commuters' safety"