Greece races to restore power grid as cold snap recedes

Athens (AFP) –


Crews in Greece on Wednesday raced to restore power to tens of thousands of homes as a severe cold front receded after bringing heavy snowfall and gale-force winds that left three dead.

Up to 250,000 homes in the greater Athens area were earlier estimated to be without electricity, regional governor George Patoulis told state TV ERT.

A source in Patoulis' office told AFP the number was constantly changing because of ongoing repairs.

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 24.8 Celsius (minus 12.6 Fahrenheit) near the northwestern city of Florina early Wednesday.

Snow and wind felled some 900 trees in the greater Athens area alone, Patoulis said.

Army units were assisting the fire department in removing the debris, officials said.

The snowfall, which hit Athens on Monday, was the worst seen in the capital since 2008 according to meteorologists.

The state civil protection authority said about a third of the electricity grid had been restored, with more than a dozen mainly northern Athens districts still affected.

Greece's main highway, linking Athens and Thessaloniki, reopened Wednesday after the snowfall subsided.

On Tuesday, two elderly men suffering from respiratory problems died on the island of Evia near Athens after their breathing apparatus failed during a power outage.

And a livestock farmer in his 60s on the island of Crete was found dead in the snow outside his granary.

Three other missing Cretan livestock farmers were able to reach shelter on Wednesday, state agency ANA said.

The weather conditions forced officials to cancel coronavirus vaccinations in Athens on Tuesday.

The government came under fire after sending a snowplow to the chic Athens quarter of Kolonaki, where many embassies and ministers' personal offices are located, on Tuesday while heavy machinery was lacking elsewhere.