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Three people dead after heaviest snow in a decade hits Greece

The ‘Medea’ cold front brought gale force winds, resulting in power outages and a delay to Athens’ vaccine rollout.

greece-weather Snow covers the ancient Acropolis hill in Athens. Source: AP/PA Images

THREE PEOPLE DIED in Greece today after heavy snowfall not seen in more than a decade fell and gale-force winds hit, disrupting road and sea transport as well as halting Covid vaccinations in Athens.

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 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.

greece-athens-cold-front A member of the Presidential Guard helps a soldier to dress up in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

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.

‘Truly exceptional problem’

“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.

winter-weather-athens Municipal workers clean Syntagma Square. Source: DPA/PA Images

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.

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In the camp of Elaionas near Athens, some 200 refugees had to be temporarily rehoused in containers and an indoor gym after their tents were damaged by snow, according to a migrant support group.

winter-weather-athens Kalimarmaro Stadium covered in snow. Source: DPA/PA Images

“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 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 today 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 tomorrow.

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