Local authorities warned to batten down the hatches The General Secretariat for Civil Protection yesterday warned prefectural and municipal authorities to take the necessary measures to deal with a severe deterioration in weather conditions, expected to start in northern Greece from tomorrow and spread across the country. Meteorologists have forecast a severe drop in temperatures, snowfall – which will be heavy in places – and northerly gale-force winds. COMPOUND INTEREST Cretan court accepts farmer’s bid for ceiling on debt repayment An Iraklion court yesterday ruled in favor of a Cretan farmer who had appealed against excessively high interest repayments on a loan he had taken from Greece’s Agricultural Bank. The ruling cited the compound interest law passed in 2000, which sets a ceiling on debt repayments. The unnamed farmer, who had paid the bank 24,944 euros after taking out a loan for 10,271 euros, took legal action after the bank asked him for another 79,236 euros. A lawyer representing Iraklion farmers said the ruling obliged the bank to recalculate debts held by other farmers. TRAFFIC DISRUPTIONS Ambelokipi, Marathonos Ave affected Construction work which began near the Ambelokipi junction in central Athens yesterday will disrupt traffic on Alexandras, Mesogeion and Vassilissis Sofias avenues until next Tuesday. The work will cause disruptions on sections of these roads between 1 a.m. and 5.30 a.m. daily but diversions will be signposted. Work on Marathonos Avenue, between Nea Makri and Pikermi, will cause disruptions tomorrow and Friday. Also, work that began yesterday on the section of Stavrou-Lavriou Avenue, between the Kouvara and Kalyvia exits, is to continue for 10 days. Torch relay The Hellenic Olympic Committee is this afternoon due to announce the names of the first and final torchbearer of next month’s Olympic torch relay. The first runner will collect the torch during the official lighting ceremony at Ancient Olympia on March 25 – Independence Day – and the final carrier will bring the torch to the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens on March 31. More than 7,000 volunteers will carry the torch over the Peloponnese and the islands of the Saronic Gulf over those seven days. Hospital complaint A group of cancer patients from northern Greece yesterday lodged a complaint with a Thessaloniki prosecutor, charging that the radiotherapy machine of the northern city’s AHEPA Hospital has been operating without a license for more than six months. The machine’s license expired on June 26 of last year, according to a document prepared by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission and cited by the Society of Cancer Patients of Macedonia and Thrace. Holdups A lone armed robber made off with an unspecified sum yesterday after raiding a supermarket in Ilioupolis. Another would-be thief was not so lucky after clerks at a bank in the northern suburb of Kifissia told him the safes were locked, prompting him to flee empty-handed. Paralympic briefing The Athens 2004 Organizing Committee is today due to brief officials of the International Paralympic Committee’s organizing committee on preparations for the September 17-28 Paralympics in Athens. The IPC’s Committee president, Phil Craven, is to lead the delegation whose three-day official visit will culminate in a press conference at ATHOC’s conference center on Friday. Kastanias rally Synaspismos Left Coalition MEP Alekos Alavanos yesterday joined relatives of a Greek sailor, who has been serving a life sentence in an Egyptian jail since 1989, and human rights activists in a protest rally outside Greece’s Parliament where the approval of an agreement between Egypt and the European Union was being debated. Protesters object to the agreement being sanctioned before Egypt has agreed to consider sending Constantinos Kastanias back to Greece. Kastanias, and another two sailors, was jailed for smuggling 7.5 tons of cannabis aboard the motorship Thanassis. The other two sailors have died in jail.