Three dead as heavy snow and gale-force winds hit GreeceFebruary 16, 2021
Snow blanketed ancient monuments like the Acropolis and the cold front, dubbed “Medea” after the mythical Greek sorceress of the Argonauts, sent temperatures plunging, with a maximum low of minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) in the northwestern city of Florina.
“The last time we saw so much snow in the centre of Athens was in February 2008,” meteorologist Costas Lagouvardos told AFP.
On the island of Evia near Athens, two elderly men suffering from respiratory problems died after their breathing apparatus failed during a power outage, state TV ERT reported.
On Crete, a livestock farmer in his 60s was found dead in the snow outside his granary at the village of Kaminaki in the east of the island, TV ERT added.
The rare phenomenon prompted authorities to cancel all coronavirus vaccinations planned in the capital for the day.
Evia, Greece’s second largest island, has been without power for two days, and scores of falling trees caused local outages in some parts of the greater Athens area.
Over a dozen municipalities in the capital have been affected, officials said.
“Our big concern is the electricity grid,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after an emergency cabinet meeting. “We need patience to resolve this problem which is truly exceptional.”
The weather conditions also sparked concern about conditions for thousands living in migrant camps around the country.
Over the past few days the United Nations‘ refugee agency UNHCR has sent radiators to the camps around the country where tens of thousands of asylum seekers have been struggling with the cold and hail.
Additional sleeping bags and blankets have also been handed out, a migration ministry source told AFP.
In the camp of Elaionas near Athens, some 200 refugees on Tuesday had to be temporarily rehoused in containers and an indoor gym after their tents were damaged by snow, according to a migrant support group.
“Nobody in Elaionas will stay in a tent tonight,” the migration ministry source said.
Authorities shut down the main motorway between Athens and Greece’s second city Thessaloniki late Monday to prevent traffic backups, while winds of up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) an hour halted shipping between the Greek mainland and the Aegean islands.
The snow that fell through most of the day Monday snarled traffic in the city centre on Tuesday as well as in the northern suburbs.
The snow also turned the sandy beaches of the Athens seafront white.
The weather was forecast to improve from Wednesday.