OPINION

The snow, the State and the public

The harsh weather that has struck Greece over the past 36 hours is, indeed, severe, but this does not absolve the state authorities of responsibility for neglect or delays in tackling problems. Yet it must be said that even the most organized and best-equipped state mechanism cannot completely neutralize the effects of a natural calamity on daily life. The issue in such circumstances is not to repeat the usual accusations against the State but for everyone to adopt a responsible attitude. Both the government and local authorities must be in a complete state of readiness to deal with extreme weather conditions, especially when the Meteorology Bureau has already predicted them. And the public should also be cautious and prepared. Households in mountain and highland areas which bear the brunt of the cold weather, are experienced with it, and usually make it through without losses. Judging from the previous spell of bad weather before Christmas, most problems arose from the haphazard approach of Attica residents who set out on their holidays without making the least preparations. Despite the repeated warnings of the Traffic Police, a large percentage of drivers did not even bother purchasing snow chains. In very bad weather, the public must exercise self-control so as to avoid exposure to unnecessary risks. The Greek climate rarely produces such phenomena. And though it may sound cynical, it would be wrong for the State to acquire the number of snowplows used in northern countries to keep roads clear no matter what the weather. In those countries, heavy snowfall is a common phenomenon that the authorities are obliged to deal with. Of course, this does not mean that everything in Greece should grind to a halt in extreme weather conditions. It is totally unacceptable, for instance, that highways should be closed or the electricity supply be cut off for hours in entire areas, least of all in Attica. Unfortunately, the public often tends to waver between making extreme demands of the State and tolerating even obvious negligence. If the public voiced more specific and realistic criticism, it would be more effective.