Athens blanketed with unaccustomed snow

Athens (AFP) –


The Greek capital Athens was blanketed Tuesday with a layer of snow, two days after officials said three people had died as stormy weather and freezing temperatures gripped most of the country.

The snowfall prompted authorities to close schools and courthouses, while many public offices and banks provided minimal services.

Many employees stayed away from work as the snow created traffic problems for a populace unused to driving in the freezing conditions.

But Antoine Viredaz, a Swiss researcher visiting from Lausanne, was delighted by the unexpected snowfall.

"I was not really expecting that much snow, but it?s great," he said.

Greek officials said Sunday that the freezing conditions had claimed three lives.

Rescue services have received dozens of calls to help people trapped in their cars or homes by heavy snowfall.

And on Saturday, firefighters rescued a pair of French hikers stranded in a forest on the island of Lesbos.

The poor weather has also disrupted travel, forcing highway closures and coastal ferry and intercity train cancellations.

On Friday, a Ryanair flight bound for northern Thessaloniki was rerouted to Timisoara, Romania, because of poor visibility.

In view of exceptional low temperatures, reaching minus 23 degrees Celsius (minus 9.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in the north of the country, schools will remain closed Wednesday, the town hall of northeastern Kozani told the ANA news agency.

A new cold snap is forecast Thursday.