Greece calls state of emergency over snow disruption

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The Independent Online

A state of emergency was declared in Athens today after the heaviest snowfall in a decade blanketed the city and disrupted air and road traffic in central and southern Greece.

A state of emergency was declared in Athens today after the heaviest snowfall in a decade blanketed the city and disrupted air and road traffic in central and southern Greece.

Hundreds of cars and passengers were trapped for nearly 20 hours by snow along the main road connecting Athens with the northern port of Thessaloniki. Police, fire fighters and troops worked to open the highway and clear the road of trucks that had jackknifed.

Athens international airport was closed and snowploughs worked to clear runways and clear aircraft of ice. Roads leading to the airport were also blocked by heavy snow. Airport officials said they expected flights to resume by early afternoon.

More than 100 towns in central Greece were cut off by snow and the region was also affected by sporadic power cuts.

The snowfall and sub-zero temperatures were part of a rare winter storm affecting many parts of the southern Balkans. Greece's National Weather Service forecast improved conditions and an end to the snow falls later today

In Athens, police warned that snow chains were required for all vehicles driving in the center of the city and appealed for all residents in the capital's northern suburbs to remain in their homes.

"It is ridiculous for anyone to leave their homes," said regional Athens governor Eleni Besbea, who declared the state of emergency.

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