Greece is cut in two

Rains are forecast for today, while snowfall will resume tomorrow. Heavy snow rendered road travel between southern and northern Greece completely impossible for much of yesterday, while air transport was also delivered a severe blow when thick fog kept Thessaloniki’s airport closed for hours. For the first time in Greek history since the late 19th century, the railway system was shut down, due to severe deterioration of the weather, particularly in the hills of Brallos and Domokos in central Greece. All railway schedules from Athens to central and northern Greece and vice versa are canceled, a statement by the railway company (OSE) said, noting that the single line linking northern and southern Greece had been rendered impassable by deep snow and fallen trees. Opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis latched onto the transport chaos to attack Costas Simitis’s ruling socialists. As we speak, Greece has been cut in two, the conservatives’ chairman said. The traffic problem is unprecedented. Is this the strong Greece of Mr Simitis? At every occasion, it appears that Mr Simitis’s Greece is strong only in fair weather. All trains were sent back to their points of departure, while passengers were put up in hotels. OSE said everyone planning to travel by rail over the next few days should check railway information at 529.7777, or their local railway station. Travel by road was also next to impossible, due to a combination of deep snow and overturned trucks and buses which created insurmountable obstacles. Yesterday afternoon, the civil defense authorities advised drivers planning road travel to think again. There are heavy snowstorms on the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, from Lamia to Volos, a statement said. For over 200 kilometers, cars require snow chains and conditions are difficult. We advise all who have planned to travel along that road to postpone travel for several hours. The situation was exacerbated by a series of incidents in which trucks and buses skidded on the icy roads and overturned, completely blocking the road. As a result, traffic police in the central Greek town of Larissa banned all heavy vehicles from using the highway, as well as cars without snow chains. Thessaloniki’s Macedonia airport once again succumbed to its old enemy, fog. It was closed down from 9 a.m. to about 5 p.m. This time, although special navigational systems have been installed to circumvent the problems, they proved useless as the one runway which is equipped with them had not been cleared of this week’s accumulated snow and ice. The other runway was clear, but had no navigational aids. Yesterday’s lowest temperature was minus 28 Centigrade, in Nevrokopi near Drama in eastern Macedonia.

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