On alert for cold front from Siberia

A cold front of weather from Siberia is expected to send temperatures in Athens as well as other parts of Greece plummeting from today, prompting representatives of the police and fire brigade to meet yesterday to discuss how best to maintain safety on snow-covered roads. Freezing weather in Russia was known to have killed almost 50 people by last night but is expected to hit Greece in a milder form. Nevertheless, the temperature began dropping from yesterday and reached -6 degrees Celsius in the northern city of Florina. Weathermen have forecast that it would snow in most parts of Greece over the next two days, including Attica, accompanied by gale force winds. This prompted Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis to take the rare step of chairing a meeting of police and fire chiefs to coordinate a plan of action to deal with the bad weather. It was decided that the police and fire brigade would maintain a round-the-clock presence in areas that are likely to be badly affected by the adverse conditions. Police cars will patrol national roads 24 hours a day and 13 stations have been set up along the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, from which assistance can be dispatched. Teams of snow plows are to operate in Attica, Thessaloniki, Patras, Tripolis, Lamia and Larissa. «I want to stress that all drivers should take extra care when driving on the national road network,» said Voulgarakis. «Cars should be equipped with snow chains, especially large vehicles.» Voulgarakis warned that truck and bus drivers who did not have snow chains would be heavily penalized. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos headed a meeting of the Civil Protection Authority and local authority representatives to discuss preparations at a local level. «If the forecasts do not turn out to be completely accurate,» said Pavlopoulos, «then some people will think that we overreacted. But it is better to be prepared.» Pavlopoulos said people should not make unnecessary trips when the bad weather hits. He said the decision to keep schools open or to close them would be made by the prefects in each area.

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