Greece: two public holidays for deluge of snow

Thousands of motorists were blocked and then evacuated from the Athens ring road overnight and part of Attica is without electricity.

“I haven’t had electricity since last night (Monday), it’s a shame, if I were younger, I would leave Greece”, indignant Dionyssis Kiourkakis, a 79-year-old Athenian. Heavy snowfalls in Greece completely disrupted daily life on Tuesday, disrupting (among other things) the Athens road network. The capital as well as several cities in the center of the country woke up on Tuesday under a thick white coat, forcing the government to decree Tuesday and Wednesday non-working days in Attica and on certain snow-covered islands.

On the night of Monday to Tuesday, “3,500 motorists” had to be evacuated after being trapped on the Athens ring road by snowfall “exceptional”, according to the Minister of Civil Protection and Climate Change Christos Stylianides. Blankets, food, water bottles were distributed to motorists. Many had to abandon their vehicles on the snow-covered roadway as the temperature fell below zero.

Some furious motorists called radio stations to express “their anger” and criticize the government and the device management company for “this chaos”. On Twitter, the hashtag #AttikiOdos, named after the toll device, exploded: “We must file a complaint against Attiki Odos who should have closed the highway.” The car drivers “paid the toll and stayed out in the cold. Why were there no snow plows? asks @Afrodit98675861.

Investigation opened by the Athens public prosecutor’s office

“Evacuations continued on Attiki Odos” Tuesday morning, specified Mr. Stylianidis, who like the day before “excuse” for incidents on the 70 km long ring road, which notably serves Athens airport. However, the Minister attributed the responsibility to the management company, which “has failed to leave open this very busy axis”.

For its part, the company of Attiki Odos also apologized for these “unprecedented incidents” on this major toll road, but pointed out that “traffic problems […] were due either to vehicle breakdowns or to the lack of experience of motorists, some of whom were afraid”. Under pressure from the government, she promised “2000 euros” of damages per car stuck on the highway it manages.

The Athens Public Prosecutor’s Office has opened an investigation to find the responsibilities of the “disturbances and obstruction of traffic“, according to a judicial source. The ring road and other major axes of the capital remained closed to traffic on Tuesday. Power was cut in several corners of Attica.

Bus and trolley traffic has also been suspended in the streets of Athens, littered with tree branches and snow-covered cars. “Athens is not used to such a volume of snow”, told AFP Alexia, a 50-year-old from Neo Psychiko, in the north of Athens. Maritime transport was also disrupted and connections to the islands from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, were suspended due to strong winds.

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