Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Greek capital weathers snow chaos backlash

ATHENS (AFP) – Athens inched back to normal yesterday following a paralysing snowstorm that sparked a backlash over closures and outages that left up to 200,000 homes and businesses without power.

The national observatory recorded 15 centimetres of snow falling in central Athens in 48 hours, the city’s worst snowstorm since a storm dumped 25 centimetres in 2008.

Shops and the capital’s main ring road re-opened yesterday after what officials described as a “super-human” effort to clear some 3,000 vehicles trapped in the snow since Monday.

But state offices and schools remained closed, operating remotely, following a two-day public holiday called in Athens and other badly hit regions of Greece to keep people indoors.

As hundreds of people in the Greek capital remained without electricity, the main opposition party tabled a censure motion against the government over its response to the blizzard, the Covid-19 pandemic, and mounting energy costs.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has 157 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament, enough to survive the motion in a three-day debate likely to culminate with a vote on Sunday.

People walk on ice-covered walking zone in central Athens after heavy snowfall in the greek capital. PHOTO: AFP

“It’s time for you to leave,” Alexis Tsipras, leader of the leftist Syriza party, told Parliament referring to the government.

Government spokesman Giannis Ekonomou said the motion was a “predictable gesture for show”.

Energy Minister Kostas Skrekas said fewer than 1,000 homes in the greater Athens area remained without power yesterday, compared to 200,000 homes and businesses that experienced blackouts from Monday, when the snow first struck.

Municipal crews were clearing snow and fallen tree branches from side streets in neighbourhoods of Athens, home to nearly four million people. Greeks have expressed outrage and disbelief at authorities’ inability to clear roads and restore power earlier in more than a dozen Athens districts.

The prime minister on Wednesday offered a “personal and sincere apology” and said “lessons” would be drawn.

On Tuesday, a homeless man died of heart failure attributed to sub-zero temperatures in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Yesterday, residents in semi-rural suburbs east of Athens battled blackouts and supply shortages for a fourth straight day.

“Do they want to find us frozen stiff? We have no heating, no food. Shame on them. If they had any decency, they should all resign,” a woman in the suburb of Peania told state TV ERT.

On Tuesday, the chief executive officer of the private-run Attiki Odos ring road resigned, and the company has offered 2,000 euros in compensation for each stranded vehicle.