NEWS

Record-breaking cold

Temperatures hit record lows in many parts of Greece yesterday, despite a slight easing of weather conditions. Meanwhile, a trainload of people who had spent most of Tuesday trapped in snowbound, unheated railway carriages in Thrace had a further nasty shock yesterday, when their train went off the rails on the outskirts of Thessaloniki. The 118 passengers who were trapped for 15 hours outside the village of Petrades, near the Turkish border in Thrace, in temperatures that dipped to minus 10 degrees centigrade, were eventually transferred to train 617 to Thessaloniki. But some three kilometers (2 miles) outside the city, near the station of Nea Philadelphia, the first three train carriages went off the icy rails. None of the 400 passengers was hurt. They were moved onto yet another train which reached Athens safely later in the day. Opposition New Democracy attacked the government over the incident yesterday, with party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos complaining that the State appeared to be crippled. Shadow transport minister Athanassios Cheimarras said mishaps such as Tuesday’s did not even occur during the war of 1940. Government spokesman Christos Protopappas countered by accusing the conservatives of trying to make political leeway out of the weather. Nearly 100 villages remained cut off from the rest of the country by snow yesterday. The lowest temperature was minus 24 degrees, in the area of Nevrokopi near Drama in eastern Macedonia. In the environs of Larissa, in central Greece, the temperature reached minus 20, which is the lowest in the past 50 years. Trikala came next at minus 19, while the day’s low for Thessaloniki was minus five. The lowest temperature in Athens was minus one, in Nea Philadelphia. For the first time in 15 years, it snowed in Cephalonia and Zakynthos, while snow also fell on Rhodes. But winds dropped enough for the Merchant Marine Ministry to lift its ban on departures from Piraeus and Rafina for the Aegean Islands. Meanwhile, the National Rescue Squad was yesterday continuing their search for a 46-year-old man missing since December 11 after setting out on a mountaineering expedition to the area of Prionia on Mt Olympus. Eustathios Iosifidis had told his parents he would return on Sunday, but they contacted police in Thessaloniki on Tuesday after hearing no word from their son. Neo-Nazi arrest. Police in Amaliada, northwestern Peloponnese, have arrested an Austrian neo-Nazi activist wanted by police in Austria since 1999, when he escaped while serving a two-year prison sentence for neo-Nazi activities, the Austrian Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday. Karl Polacek, 67, who has five previous convictions for neo-Nazi crimes in Germany, was head of the ultra-right Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei of Germany’s Lower Saxony region and is thought to have instigated several acts of neo-Nazi violence at the beginning of the 1990s. Polacek was arrested after Greek authorities received an anonymous tipoff.