Heavy snow paralyzes Greek capital, crews struggle to free stranded drivers

ATHENS, Jan 24 (Reuters) – A heavy blanket of snow blanketed the Greek capital from the Acropolis hill to the south coast on Monday, disrupting air traffic, disrupting transport and leaving dozens of drivers stranded overnight on a highway. .

Rescue teams struggled to free hundreds of drivers whose cars stopped for hours on an Athens ring road as the storm, named Elpida, swept through Greece and blanketed the city in a thick layer of snow.

Greek media showed footage of soldiers handing out food, water and blankets to some drivers as the temperature plummeted overnight.

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Heavy snowfalls are rare in Athens, but the city is now hit by blizzards for the second year in a row.

Fifteen passengers were injured when a rail transport vehicle attempted to pull a train carrying around 200 passengers which had come to a standstill in heavy snowfall in central Greece.

The Parthenon temple is seen on top of the Acropolis hill, during heavy snowfall in Athens, Greece, January 24, 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

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Two of the injured were in serious condition, a police official said.

Train and bus services in the capital have been suspended. COVID-19 vaccination facilities in the wider Athens region and on the neighboring island of Euboea have been closed, health officials said.

Public services, schools, non-essential shops and banks in these two regions and on many Greek islands, including Crete, will also be closed on Tuesday, with the cold snap expected to persist until Wednesday.

“It will be a difficult night,” said Christos Stylianides, Greece’s minister for the climate crisis and civil protection.

Greek carrier Aegean Airlines (AGNr.AT) canceled all but five flights on Monday and said it expected schedules to be disrupted on Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.

Turkish authorities also had to halt flights at Istanbul airport due to heavy snowfall, while weather conditions hampered transport across the country. Read more

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Reporting by Vassilis Triandafyllou, Alkis Konstantinidis, Stamos Prousalis, Angeliki Koutantou, Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stephen Coates

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