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Paris snow closes Eiffel Tower, brings traffic chaos

CNN logo CNN 2/7/2018 By Saskya Vandoorne and Eliza Mackintosh, CNN
A man skiing on the snow-covered Montmartre hill. © ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images A man skiing on the snow-covered Montmartre hill. People pass by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel as they walk through the snow covered Tuileries garden. © GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images People pass by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel as they walk through the snow covered Tuileries garden.

The Eiffel Tower was shuttered to tourists as heavy snowfall snarled traffic in Paris, bringing the city of lights to a standstill on Wednesday.

A volunteer worker talks with a homeless woman in Issy les Moulineaux, west of Paris, on Tuesday. © Thibault Camus/AP A volunteer worker talks with a homeless woman in Issy les Moulineaux, west of Paris, on Tuesday. A cyclist braves the snow covered Champ de Mars following heavy snowfall in Paris on Wednesday. © THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images A cyclist braves the snow covered Champ de Mars following heavy snowfall in Paris on Wednesday.

Photographs shared by the Eiffel Tower's official Twitter account showed the French capital blanketed in white.

The exceptional snowfall caused chaos on roadways across Paris, with a record 700km (430 miles) of traffic jams recorded on Tuesday evening, CNN affiliate BFM TV reported. Public transportation was also halted.

Snow snarls traffic across the French capital. © GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images Snow snarls traffic across the French capital.

Authorities opened emergency shelters to accommodate stranded commuters, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Frederic de Lanouvelle, said.

"The situation is complicated, it's even quite exceptional," de Lanouvelle said on French national radio France Info on Wednesday.

"We're asking drivers not to use their cars this morning."

De Lanouvelle said 46 emergency shelters were opened to homeless people and others caught out in the winter weather on Tuesday night, housing about 1,000 people. Hundreds were also sheltered at train stations and airports.

People stranded by the snow rest in an emergency shelter installed at the Robert Wagner gymnasium in Velizy-Villacoublay, southwestern suburbs of Paris. © SAMUEL BOIVIN/AFP/Getty Images People stranded by the snow rest in an emergency shelter installed at the Robert Wagner gymnasium in Velizy-Villacoublay, southwestern suburbs of Paris. Children play in the snow in the Palais Royal garden on Wednesday. © GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images Children play in the snow in the Palais Royal garden on Wednesday.

Some 2,500 emergency services staff were deployed to restore order as quickly as possible, De Lanouvelle added.

But some Parisians braved the snow, with at least a few skiers and snowboarders taking to one of the slopes in the city -- Montmartre hill near Paris' iconic church, the Sacre Coeur. Others shared photos of the wintry scenes on social media with the hashtag #ParisSousLaNeige, Paris under snow.

According to the Meteo France weather service, up to 5.9 inches of snow has fallen in the Paris area so far -- the biggest snowfall since 1987.

The greater Paris region is among 27 departments that have been placed under alert across the country, according to Meteo France.

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