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Two dead as snow front blankets Greece

By AFP - Feb 16,2021 - Last updated at Feb 16,2021

In this aerial photograph the ancient temple of Zeus is covered by snow during a rare heavy snowfall in the city of Athens on Tuesday (AFP photo)

ATHENS — Two people died in Greece on Tuesday as heavy snowfall not seen in years and gale-force winds lashed the country, disrupting road and sea transport.

The cold snap dubbed “Medea” after the mythical Greek sorceress of the Argonauts brought the most snow to the Greek capital in over a decade, experts said.

A maximum low of -19ºC was recorded in the nortwestern city of Florina.

On the island of Evia near Athens, an octogenarian suffering from respiratory problems died after an ambulance failed to reach his home in time to repair his breathing apparatus.

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.

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 falling trees caused local outages in some parts of the greater Athens area.

“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.

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 an hour halted shipping between the Greek mainland and the Aegean islands.

The winter wonderland surrounding the snow-cloaked Acropolis offered a reprieve from the cabin fever suffered because of coronavirus restrictions to Athenians like city employee Vangelis Gerantonis, 38, who told AFP: “It’s good for the morale after all this confinement. We’re very happy to be outdoors, without masks.”

The unaccustomed 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 weather was forecast to improve from Wednesday.

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