NEWS

Authorities on alert as snow strikes again

Many of the country’s roads were transformed into dangerous skating rinks yesterday as temperatures plummeted and snowfall blocked traffic, closing even major highways in several areas. As of dawn yesterday, the State has been on heightened alert and will remain so until Monday morning. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis chaired a meeting yesterday of the Civil Defense General Secretariat to take stock of the situation, while the army has been mobilized to assist in efforts to keep the country’s highways open. Skandalidis appealed to the public to postpone any journeys that are not absolutely necessary. Difficulties in Attica Attica and central Greece have born the brunt of the bad weather. Traffic was brought to a standstill on the Katehaki ring road on Mt Hymettus yesterday morning from 8 a.m. to noon. The Varibombi Bridge over the national highway was also closed to traffic for several hours, as well as the road to Mt Parnitha and the Dionysos-Aghios Petros road on Mt Pendeli. Snow chains were needed on the Athens-Lamia highway as far as Schimatari and from the 24th to the 34th kilometer of the Athens-Corinth Highway. Contraction of the metal sections on the Stavros flyover at Aghia Paraskevi caused problems during the morning and Public Works Ministry workers laid salt on Katehaki Avenue, in Elefsina and Glyka Nera, north of Athens. The Express Service road assistance company received 1,200 calls from drivers, the company’s representative Costas Monioudis told Kathimerini. Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos ordered all Attica’s state hospitals to go on extra duty, apart from those that had been on duty through the previous night. Bus services to several districts encountered problems, particularly in areas with steep hills such as Polygono or Ano Kypseli, due to slippery roads. The greatest difficulties were in the northern suburbs, such as Kifissia, Halandri, Pendeli, Vrylissia and Maroussi. Until 10 a.m., the Kifissia-Piraeus urban railway line was forced to terminate at the Eirini station as the route to Kifissia was closed. No passenger ferries left for the islands of the eastern Aegean, the Dodecanese, Cyclades or Crete because of winds of up to 9 and 10 Beaufort in the Aegean. Closed-deck passenger ferries were sailing to the Saronic Islands and from Igoumenitsa to Lefki, but the Kavala-Prinos, Keramoti-Thasos and Preveza-Aktio crossings were closed About 80 villages have been cut off in the prefectures of Arcadia, Messinia, Evia and Karditsa. Crops from Macedonia to Crete have sustained major damage. Despite the intense cold, the only areas of northern Greece to have snow were Deskati, Grevena and in Halkidiki, where roads were closed. Temperatures fell to -18C in Nevrokopi, -10C in Florina and -4C in Thessaloniki. Frost caused hazardous road conditions in western Macedonia and in Florina, snow chains were required on all country roads along the Kozani-Larissa highway and the mountain road network in Nestori, Kastoria. Little Prespa Lake has been frozen over for some days – as has Kastoria Lake – forcing local bird populations to seek other wetlands nearby for food. In Grevena and Kozani, packs of wolves have been coming down from the mountains and attacking livestock. Frost has also destroyed crops in northern Greece, particularly orchards and vegetable farms, shrub nurseries and some tree plantations in the prefectures of Imathia, Pella, Kilkis and Thessaloniki. The first fruit shortages are already evident in Thessaloniki stores. In other parts of the country, hundreds of villages have been cut off. On the island of Crete, these include villages on the Lasithi plain, Anogheia in the prefecture of Rethymnon, Sfakia, Omalos and eastern Selino in the prefecture of Hania. Heavy rain has caused several landslides on the island’s major highways. Many of the country’s highways and country roads are only accessible to vehicles equipped with snow chains. Traffic was moving with difficulty on the Athens-Patras highway yesterday, and the weather closed the Kleitoria-Kalavryta, Akrata-Zarouchla, Aegeira-Synevros roads. Snow was 30 cm deep in Hania on Mt Pelion, central Greece, and over 100 snowplows were trying to clear roads in the mountains of Magnisia.