ATHENS – Greece’s capital was still struggling to dig out from a snowstorm three days after it happened, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologizing for drivers stranded all night on a major highway and many streets still buried.
Despite reports from some neighborhoods that streets were inaccessible in places and vehicles couldn’t move, municipal official insisted they had been cleared although they weren’t.
Compounding the misery were icy streets and sidewalks that made getting about slippery and dangerous, the city not having enough equipment to deal with snow or its aftermath, a rare occurrence.
Many local authorities insisted that the situation was “under control,” said Kathimerini, at odds with unhappy residents complaining they weren’t and Mitsotakis trying to dig out from under an avalanche of complaints.
Those were directed at his New Democracy government and the management of the Attiki Odos ring road that goes around the capital and where thousands of vehicles were trapped and abandoned because it wasn’t cleared of snow fast enough and cars and trucks were allowed on during the storm.
The Municipality of Kifissia sent out a Facebook post calling on residents to send emails in order to receive a certificate of “impossibility of movement,” since the efforts to clean the streets failed, the paper said.
That led to a torrent of angry responses from residents asking where the snow removal machines were and complaints about heating oil shortages and there were reports in some neighborhoods of remaining power outages.
“We’ve had two days of sun and are still buried in snow,” said one of the comments that contradicted municipal officials reports that the roads were clear, but residents complaining they weren’t.
Many local authorities in the northern suburbs said they needed more time to dig out because of how much snow they got – which was predicted days in advance but saw them unprepared nevertheless.
The mayor of Papagou-Holargos, Ilias Apostolopoulos, attributed the delay in clearing even the main roads in his municipality to cars which were abandoned by citizens.
Mitsotakis, who was nowhere to be seen during the storm and for two days after – leading the major opposition SYRIZA to mock him and suggest a Silver Alert be put out for the missing – admitted there were response errors, just as he did after wildfires swept the country in the summer.
“I would like to start with a personal and sincere apology to our fellow citizens who suffered for many hours, trapped on the Attiki Odos,” Mitsotakis said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. “There were mistakes and shortcomings which have to be fixed,” he added without saying what they were or remedies.
Mitsotakis blamed the road’s private operators for mishandling the reaction to the storm and forced them to offer a 2,000 euro ($2240) settlement to drivers stuck overnight on Attiki Odos.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)