The Greek Prime Minister has apologised for the state’s lack of preparedness to deal with the Elpis snowstorm which left thousands of people stranded in their cars on the Attiki Odos beltway in Athens.
Speaking during an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed an investigation into the failure of the company managing the beltway to maintain normal traffic conditions.
“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. “There were mistakes and shortcomings which have to be fixed.”
Mitsotakis said that the thousands of toll-paying motorists who became trapped on the highway in their cars and trucks during Monday’s blizzard would receive compensation from the company. The company CEO resigned amid the controversy on Tuesday.
An estimated 4,000 drivers were left stranded in cars for hours in sub-zero temperatures as the storm pounded Athens.
There were unprecedented scenes as the Greek army and municipal crews were called in to evacuate motorists trapped in their vehicles. Soldiers also handed out food, water and blankets to drivers.
Those who were not evacuated by the army sought refuge in Athens international airport or struggled to walk to their homes through the snow.
Many city streets were also still impassable on Wednesday, while the snowstorm knocked out power to several Athens neighbourhoods.
Greek authorities declared Tuesday and Wednesday a public holiday, shutting public offices and private businesses except supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations in the greater Athens area and on some islands.
Schools are not expected to reopen until Friday after authorities announced that snow was still blocking access to many of the facilities.
The Mitsotakis government’s handling of the situation has been heavily criticised by local media and citizens, as well as the Opposition.
In a statement, the SYRIZA party called for the resignations of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Environment Minister Kostas Skrekas and government spokesman Ioannis Oikonomou.
This is the second consecutive year – and only the second time since 1968 – that Athens has been pummelled by a snowstorm of such vigour. As much as 50cm of snow fell in 12 hours in some parts of the capital.
Indicative of the storm’s intensity, tornadoes were reported off islands and coastal areas, with almost all of Athens, from the Acropolis in the ancient city centre to seaside suburbs in the south-east, being blanketed white.
Source: The Guardian.