With the government blasted by the opposition over its response, the finger of blame for the chaos and entrapment of thousands of drivers on the Attica beltway that rings the Greek capital during the snowstorm on Monday evening is being pointed at Attiki Odos SA, the company that manages the highway.
Rescue crews freed hundreds of trapped drivers, others simply abandoned their cars and left the highway on foot, while some spent the night in their vehicles.
The ministries of Civil Protection and Citizens’ Protection and the Traffic Police charged Tuesday that during the meetings that had occurred in the days that preceded the onslaught of the Elpis weather front, the company’s executives had assured that they would keep the highway open.
But this did not happen.
The tone was set as early as Monday afternoon, when Civil Protection Ministry Christos Stylianides noted that “the road management company has to answer for the situation that has been created.”
Civil Protection Ministry sources said that both at the first meeting on Friday and that which followed at noon on Sunday, via teleconference, the executives of Attiki Odos and Nea Odos (Athens-Lamia national highway) gave assurances that they had adequate means to keep the road network open. Some executives of Nea Odos had proposed a temporary ban on trucks as a precaution as early as Sunday night.
Civil Protection officials said there could be no interruption of traffic and therefore of the supply chain before a phenomenon occurs and that it is a contractual obligation of the companies to ensure the smooth movement of vehicles on their networks.
Ministry officials moreover said that Attiki Odos did not ensure that the traffic on the highway was stopped in time as soon as the problems with the first trucks began in the Kantza area. Instead, cars continued to access Attiki Odos.
Another point raised by Civil Protection officials was that even when the problem first appeared, the officials of Attiki Odos did not immediately divert the traffic, before cars were trapped in the snow.
“If they did the above or even one of them the problem would have been prevented,” an official told Kathimerini, noting that the number of vehicles that were trapped could reach 50,000.