ATHENS – “It was a very very difficult night and a superhuman extraction effort is underway on Attiki Odos,” government spokesperson Yiannis Oikonomou said on Tuesday, speaking on Alpha television.
“The police, the army, the fire brigade, civil defence, working constantly through the night, managed to extricate roughly 1,800 vehicles. Another 1,200 vehicles are still there. About 3,000-3,500 people were transferred during the night. Crews on foot were there to distribute blankets, water, food. The Proastiakos Railway was constantly taking people from the exit points to carry them to the airport,” he said.
“Obviously, a number of things did not go well. We are still at the start of managing the situation and the major issue at this time is to extricate the people that are trapped so that they all get home safely. Beyond that, there is obviously a huge issue of who bears responsibility, which will be investigated and attributed,” Oikonomou added.
“There is no possibility that this ordeal that our fellow citizens went through in a closed motorway in Athens in the year 2022, who were stuck there for hours, will be set aside without very clear explanations given on all levels, by everyone, about what was to blame and what happened.”
According to the spokesperson, the weather phenomenon was extremely intense and arrived unexpectedly and earlier than forecast in Athens.
“This made the situation much worse. With regard to the specific motorway, the planning, obligations and actions that should have been carried out by the concessionaire were not carried out, which resulted in the situation progressively becoming more difficult and cars becoming trapped. After a certain point, with vehicles trapped, the phenomena underway and a complete lack of planning by the concessionaire, things became more and more difficult until we arrived at the process of working out a plan to get people out,” Oikonomou said, adding that those responsible will be held to account.
He noted that the situation was still in a very difficult phase, given the forecasts of renewed problems soon.
“Superhuman efforts are underway to clear Attiki Odos with snow-clearing vehicles that we are bringing from wherever they are available. It is very hard because there is a lot of snow but also the vehicles that have been abandoned because people, quite rightly, left in order to protect themselves,” he said, reporting that Mesogeion Avenue was now open and a huge effort was being made to ensure that other central roads in Athens were open and safe.
Economou noted that the responsibility for each road was clear but that the system worked better in some places and not at all in others.
“There were people that endured hardship and are still enduring hardship. We will get to this but without forgetting that we had a snowfall whose size and volume was very very great in a city that did not succeed in managing it while in operation. I fully understand the outrage and indignation of the people that suffered and are suffering hardship. We owe these people explanations. Obviously we also owe an apology. First, however, we have an obligation to make every effort, which is underway, to get them safely home. The rest will happen in good time, without hiding anything.”