Greece thaws, more snow due

As the National Meteorological Service warned of snowstorms in central and southern Greece today, life was just returning to normal after last week’s blizzards and the government and citizens were calculating the cost of the damage. The weather bureau said that snow would fall overnight from central Greece to the mountains of Crete, with snow possible even in central Athens. «We note that, according to the existing data, the snowfall will be less intense and of shorter duration than that of the recent bad weather,» the service said. The problems in the capital’s water supply, which left parts of the Greater Athens area without water for two or three days, raised fears that Athens may not be able to handle the needs of the Olympics. «If in August we have temperatures above normal and have 62 percent of the population saying they will stay here and not leave for the Olympics, and we have 1.5 to 2 million visitors, the network will be heavily burdened at specific times,» Mayor Dora Bakoyianni told Athens’s Flash radio station. The Athens water and sewage company, EYDAP, said that the problems were caused by abnormal consumption that reached 2.1 million cubic meters of water on Saturday, more than double the 1 million usual for this time of year. The consumption was blamed on broken pipes in homes, people leaving taps running so that pipes would not break and people hosing down sidewalks, balconies and cars to clear them of snow. Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said water bills would be based on consumption in the same three-month period as last year, so that people would not be billed for the extra consumption caused by damaged pipes. Initial estimates of damage to agriculture was put at 300 million euros yesterday, though the cost is likely to be higher when damage becomes evident in regions still heavily snowed under, such as mountainous parts of Crete. Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said that at least half of the compensation to farmers would be paid by Easter, which is on April 11. The government, heading to elections on March 7, is also concerned about any great rise in the price of fresh produce following the snowstorms. The Development Ministry held an emergency meeting with representatives of farmers, producers and traders yesterday in an effort to control prices. «The extensive damage to green produce would have created problems had the market not foreseen this and made timely imports,» said Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. He said that if the bad weather did not continue then prices would ease normally. «There have been no instances of price gouging yet,» he added. «The next few days will show what will happen.» Chicory showed the greatest price hike yesterday, rising 33.5 percent, followed by spinach (31.4 percent), while oranges went up by 10 percent. Both open-air and greenhouse products were destroyed by the heavy snow and freezing weather, as fields were covered by snow, fruit on trees was frozen and greenhouses collapsed. The Eastern Attica provincial government ordered that schools remain closed in the region today. The private Arsakeio-Tositsa School in Ekali, the Nea Genia Ziridi and I.M. Panayiotopoulou were among the schools that will remain closed. Athens and Piraeus schools will function normally. Services at Athens International Airport were returning to normal, after some 750 flights were canceled over three days and about 10,000 passengers endured hardship, not knowing when they would leave.