Greek faces major outrage after snow disrupts traffic

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Outrage against the government and transport operators grew in Greece on Wednesday after a major snowstorm stranded thousands of motorists on the country’s most modern motorway, which remained blocked for the third day.

As Greek dailies headlined with a “fiasco” and the chief executive officer of the private company running the Attiki Odos ring road resigned, work crews struggled to free hundreds of immobilized vehicles abandoned by their drivers around the capital.

“A government buried in snow,” said leftist Efsyn daily, while even pro-government Eleftheros Typos daily spoke of “mistakes that brought chaos,” as Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

The snowstorm also knocked out power in over a dozen Athens neighborhoods, with repairs still ongoing on Wednesday as snow continued to impede access to some areas.

“We haven’t slept all night, our (fingers and toes) feel like they are about to fall off,” a woman in the southern Athens suburb of Alimos, who said she had no electricity for over a day, told Star TV.

On Tuesday, the army was brought in to help police, fire and state crews extricate some 3,500 stranded motorists.

The government said a compensation fee of 2,000 euros ($2,300) would be available to motorists, while another 1,000 euros is offered to train passengers stranded in a station north of Athens.

A homeless man died of heart failure on Tuesday in the northern city of Thessaloniki in an incident attributed to the cold. The snowstorm that hit the capital on Monday also disrupted flights out of Athens International Airport, with over 30 mainly domestic flights to be canceled Wednesday.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized on Wednesday for the state’s unpreparedness to deal with the impact of a severe snowstorm.

“I would like to start with a personal and sincere apology to our fellow citizens who suffered for many hours, trapped on Attiki Odos,” Mitsotakis said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting. “There were mistakes and shortcomings which have to be fixed,” he added, according to remarks carried by Reuters.

Mitsotakis said responsibility lay with the operator of the Attiki motorway but also pledged to improve coordination among state authorities and boost climate crisis defenses. Devastating forest fires destroyed houses and livestock last summer.

“It’s true that a Mediterranean country’s infrastructure is not always adapted to conditions of heavy snowfall,” he said. “It is equally true, however, that the state mechanism is not yet at the point of readiness that phenomena of such great intensity require.” -Agencies