NEWS

Alert for icy weather

Heavy snow caused problems across the Balkans yesterday. Greece remained frozen in winter’s grip yesterday, with blizzards moving across the country, piling up snow on highways and country roads and cutting off hundreds of villages and towns as well as drivers. In the most dramatic incident, soldiers forced their way through a blizzard in northeastern Greece to rescue the 115 passengers of a train who had spent the night in sub-zero temperatures when the train was blocked by snow and its heating system failed on Monday night. A father and his nine-year-old son who were washed away in a torrent near Patras on Sunday remained unaccounted for yesterday. The head of the Civil Defense Agency, Dimitris Papanikolaou, called on citizens to exercise extreme caution as icy conditions were now expected to make traveling, and even walking, even more dangerous across the country as temperatures continue to fall. Athens and its environs are expected to see sub-zero temperatures today. This led to the cancellation of classes in the schools of the northern Attica municipalities of Drossia, Aghios Stefanos, Kapandriti, Anoixi, Kryoneri, Varybombi, Grammatikos, Rodopolis, Dionysos and Stamata. Most of the problems yesterday, however, were in northern Greece. Provincial officials reported that 140 villages had been cut off in Kozani prefecture, 65 in Grevena, 28 in Kilkis, 31 in Rhodope, 18 in Florina and all the villages in the Alexandroupolis prefecture. The National Meteorological Service forecast an improvement in the weather from tomorrow night, but with rain and storms expected in the three following days. The 115 passengers and crew on the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) train on the Dikaia-Athens route were trapped for 15 hours in the snow shortly after leaving the town of Petrades near Didymoteichos in northeastern Greece at 9 p.m. on Monday. The train was stopped by a wall of snow two meters high. The driver notified Didymoteichos station that he could not break through the snow and two engines were dispatched for assistance. But they drove into a blizzard and the windscreen of the leading engine was broken, forcing it to turn back. At 2.30 a.m. the heating system on the trapped train stopped working. Again OSE sent out two engines, this time from Alexandroupolis, but the deep snow forced them to stop 1.5 kilometers from the trapped train. This gave heart to the passengers (who included children and elderly people and who were now wearing every item of clothing they had with them), as the two engines were visible. At the same time, troops in tracked vehicles set out from a nearby unit and were able to provide the trapped passengers and crew with brandy, food and blankets. At 12 noon yesterday, a large bulldozer managed to open a way to the train and the passengers were taken to a coffee shop at Petrades to recover before boarding another train to continue on their journey. Transport Minister Christos Verelis said an investigation was being conducted to see whether anyone was to blame for allowing the train to head into the blizzard. Nov17. Former New Democracy MP, Lefteris Papadimitriou, yesterday asked an Athens prosecutor to reopen the case of his alleged attempted murder in December 1992 by the November 17 terrorist organization. Nine years to the day after an attack in which the former MP was shot five times in the legs, Papadimitriou says there is new evidence to support his claim that the terrorist group, who have claimed responsibility for the attack, can actually be proven guilty. Papadimitriou said he will base his case on recent research findings of his own as well as recent statements about terrorism made by Nikos Gryllakis, a retired general and former close aide to ND’s former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis. It was not clear what Papadimitriou meant.