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Stranded Drivers Freed after Snowstorm Leaves Greece Covered in White

ATHENS – A major snow storm that had been predicted for days still caught residents in Greece offguard and the New Democracy government scrambling for answers as to why motorists were stuck for hours on major roads.

Up to 5,000 drivers shivered up to 20 hours on the Attiki Odos ring road around the capital and the Army had to be sent to deliver blankets, water and food to them, while there were power outages and images of uncleared roads.

Social media posts showed dozens of people trudging through heavy snow, including parents carrying young children, as they abandoned cars and trucks on the side of the road and took to walking in search of help and shelter.

Read more:Attiki Odos Issues Announcement Regarding the Abandoned Cars

Another post showed a few dozen snowbound motorists sleeping on the floor of the lobby of a nearby hotel, said Kathimerini, as the Attiki Odos management had to issue an apology and said it would compensate victims.

A dog play on the snow in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

Rescue crews freed around 200-300 drivers who were trapped on Attiki Odos that runs across Athens and connects the Greek capital with the city’s international airport.

Read more: Greece’s Snow Lockdown Will Continue, Public Services Stay Shut

The heavy snowfall had mostly stopped on Tuesday, but many streets in Athens remained blocked by trees whose branches snapped under the weight of the snow. Several neighborhoods in the Greek capital, particularly in the northern part of the city, remained without power.

A fallen tree on a parked vehicle in Athens, after a snowstorm, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The company also said it would investigate why its emergency response systems broke down despite repeated warnings of adverse conditions coming.

The debacle was another hit for the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after wildfires swept across the country, which led to the major opposition SYRIZA blaming him for mishandling the response.

Rescue crews worked through the night of Jan. 24 to get to motorists who were in their cars, and the aftermath lingered into the next morning with scenes of abandoned vehicles and stuck trucks all over the place.

A homeless man wrapped with a blanket walks on the snow outside the Academy of Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The Head of the Athens Prosecutor’s Office Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou has ordered an investigation into the failures of the Attiki Odos ring road to maintain normal traffic conditions and to establish whether any charges could be brought, said Kathimerini.

Environment and Citizen Protection Christos Stylianides said the managing company failed to maintain normal traffic conditions despite earlier promises that it was ready for the snow predicted days in advance.

Abandoned vehicles are seen in an motorway way after a snowstorm, in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

Read more: Oikonomou: The Main Thing Now Is to Get People Home Safely; Answers Will Be Given

“I think responsibility must be established. That will be my suggestion to the Prime Minister,” said Stylianides, who apologized to stranded motorists and as company officials blamed motorists and vehicles immobilized because the roads weren’t cleared.

A woman with skiing sticks walks on the snow in front of the ancient Acropolis hill, in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

“In the Attiki Odos ring road, that measures 70 kilometers, there are over 35 snow ploughs or approximately one for every two kilometers and an ample supply of salt,” the company said, without explaining why they weren’t able to keep roads clear of moderate snow fall.

“We are sorry for the situation and for the difficulties faced by drivers, while we note that the tolls remain open by decision of the managing company,” said the company in an official release.

A snow plow clears a road in front of the ancient Acropolis hill, in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Greek authorities had warned people to limit their movements to the essential only and to use snow chains on city streets, but many people went to work in the morning when the snow was light, only to be trapped later.

Some of the problems were reportedly caused by trucks that slipped and jack-knifed across the road, blocking traffic, the second year in a row that Greek experienced rare snow cover.

There will be an extension until Wednesday of the holiday declared in snowbound regions of Greece for the island of Evia and in Boeotia (Viotia) also, the climate crisis and civil protection ministry announced on Tuesday.

This means that the holiday on Wednesday will apply in the areas of Attica, Boeotia, the Dodecanese islands, Evia, Crete and the Cyclades islands.

The snowstorm, complete with thunder and lightning, hit the wider Athens area late in the morning Monday, dumping large amounts of snow on the city. It is the second year in a row that Greece has experienced a freak snowstorm. Last year, similar weather in February left tens of thousands of trees felled by the weight of the snow on city streets, parks and woodland around Athens.

Read more: Schools and Daycare Centres in Attica to Remain Closed on Wednesday

Sky Express cancels flights due to bad weather

The airline Sky Express announced the cancellation of several flights due to the poor weather conditions on Tuesday. They included flights to Athens, Thessaloniki, Larnaca in Cyprus and several Greek islands.

The airline announced that passengers who were unable to travel on January 24-25 due to the bad weather or because they were unable to access the airport will be able to either exchange their tickets free of charge with another ticket to the same destination on a flight before January 31 or exchange them for a voucher for future use. This can be done by filling a form on the Sky Express web page https://www.skyexpress.gr/el/company/contact, after which a representative of the company will contact the passenger to complete the procedure.

People play with the snow in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

COVID vaccinations for Wednesday cancelled

Coronavirus vaccination appointments scheduled for Wednesday (Jan. 26) in Attica Region and Evia island are cancelled, authorities said on Tuesday.

Adults and caretakers of children over 12 scheduled for shots can reschedule the appointments through the government platform (emvolio.gov.gr), as there are several open slots to choose from, they said.

For appointments related to children aged 5-11 years of age, parents will be notified of rescheduled dates and times through a text message (sms) on the cellphones.

Vaccinations were cancelled on Tuesday as well after the ‘Elpis’ thundersnow weather phenomenon hit the region on Monday morning, creating transportation and other problems. Tuesday and Wednesday were separately declared obligatory holidays, with most public services shut down and citizens advised to avoid travel.

A man takes a photo in front of the ancient Acropolis hill, after a snowstorm, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

 

The Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, is covered with snow, after heavy snowfall, in Athens, on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022.(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

 

A man takes pictures of a fallen tree blocking a road in Athens, after a snowstorm on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

 

A fallen tree blocks a road in Athens, after a snowstorm on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

 

A man cuts a tree blocking a road in Athens, after a snowstorm on Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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