Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said some emergency call centers “are having difficulty receiving calls due to a technical problem with the operator.”
“Every effort is being made to resolve these flaws as quickly as possible,” he tweeted.
Health Minister Olivier Veran said the breakdown was “obviously due to a maintenance problem” at the French telecommunications group Orange.
The maintenance carried out “by Orange would have caused quite random breakdowns, with a drop of up to 30 percent in some regions,” Veran told channel TF1.
He added that Orange had said it was “working on it to get it fixed overnight.” The minister asked that “people go to their prefectural website to call local numbers.”
Orange confirmed to AFP that a “technical incident on a router had largely disrupted VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), Internet calls in some regions.” A source close to the case ruled out any kind of “piracy.”
Orange apologized for the inconvenience and said its teams had identified the problem and were “fully mobilized to restore services as soon as possible.”
He urged people to call back, possibly via mobile phone. Problems were reported across the country starting at 6 p.m., wreaking havoc on emergency services.
Francois Braun, an emergency doctor and director of the Samu-Urgences emergency medical services union, said that “people could not access the service, calls did not arrive, others were cut off in the middle of a conversation.”
He said almost every department in France was affected, adding that calls generally peak around 7 p.m.
“We do not know what consequences this collapse will have, it is too early to say,” he said.