Tunis, Jan 16, 2017 (AFP) - Heavy snow has trapped around 1,000 motorists in northwestern Tunisia, the prime minister's office said Monday. Drifts blocked roads including a major highway in the province of Jendouba on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed's office said. The government opened 10 emergency shelters in schools and sports centres, warning the public not to travel unless absolutely necessary. Authorities distributed food and blankets to people trapped in a "monster traffic jam", private radio station Mosaique FM said.
Jendouba Governor Akram Sebri said "considerable quantities of food and liquid gas" had been stockpiled "as a precaution". Winter snowfall is not unusual in the North African country's highlands, but Tunisia has been hit by particularly heavy blizzards from Europe in the last week. Temperatures have plummeted to minus 5 degrees centigrade (23 degrees Fahrenheit). The blizzards hit some of Tunisia's poorest regions including the mountainous western province of Kasserine. Authorities say children and frail people were evacuated to areas closer to hospitals. A nine-year-old girl died in early January in Jendouba because of the cold, Tunisian media reported. Forecasters say cold temperatures, high winds and heavy snowfall are set to continue at least until the middle of the week.