Athens succumbs to storm

For the fourth time in five months, riverside districts of southern Athens were flooded following heavy rainfall all day yesterday, while, in a new twist to the capital’s weather woes, a hailstorm caused extensive damage to houses and cars in western Athens. Problems at Athens International Airport forced the cancellation of several flights, while airport officials stopped all refueling operations for several hours, for fear that lightning could touch off an explosion. And all ferries were banned from sailing from Piraeus and Rafina due to strong winds in the Aegean. Parts of the southern Athens districts of Moschato, Rendi and Neo Faliron were set awash when the Kifissos River broke its banks, despite ongoing government efforts to contain the river. Dozens of homes and shops were flooded. Government officials blamed engineers building flood barriers at the bridge carrying the river over Piraeus Road, noting that the barriers had held elsewhere. «Mistakes were made,» Deputy Public Works Minister Yiannis Tsaklidis said. «Those responsible will be punished.» Heavy rain and snow afflicted many parts of northern Greece, where the temperature dropped to just above freezing point in several places. Meanwhile, strong winds off the island of Chios endangered the five-member crew of a small Ukrainian-flagged freighter, which issued a Mayday call in the morning after suffering engine failure. The Venta was towed to safe moorings near Mesta. However, an inspection of the vessel revealed that the Venta was carrying a load of 150,000 contraband cigarette packs, which were confiscated. The crew was arrested. The storms are expected to persist until tomorrow night.

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