Athens Paralyzed by snow storms
Reuters News Service,Feb. 13, 2003
ATHENS, Greece (Reuters) --The Greek capital shut down on Friday when one of the worst snow storms in decades grounded planes, closed ports and highways and stranded thousands of people at bus stops and train stations.
The Acropolis, symbol of the city, was closed because guards said it would be too dangerous to climb up the slippery marble stairway to the temple site.
Meteorologists had warned in advance about the storm, that started on Thursday evening and has already coated Athens with up to 50 centimeters of snow.
"It is still too early to say how heavy this storm is but it certainly is one of the heaviest snow falls in decades,'' a national weather center official told Reuters.
The blizzard even paralyzed Greek political life. Foreign Minister George Papandreou called off a ceremony where he was scheduled to formally resign to lead the governing socialists in the campaign for March 7 general elections.
"We had to postpone the ceremony because there are problems with people reaching the ministry,'' a foreign ministry official told Reuters.
Though the city, which hosts the Olympic Games in six months, from August 13 to 29, is used to chaos and traffic jams, the snowfall turned central Athens into a virtual ghost town.
"I have been waiting for the airport bus (nearly two hours) ... and have seen neither a snow plough nor police to inform us,'' said Marina, 37, who works at the airport.
Some offices reported said half their staff had not turned up for work, while residents of Athens' western suburbs said water pipes had frozen.
An airport spokeswoman said the airport had been officially closed since 6:00 am (0400 GMT). Piraeus port and other harbors where foreign tourists board ferries for the Greek islands were shut by a gale warning.
The cold spell has gripped the whole of Greece, which prides itself on its 300 days of sunshine a year.
Schools across the country were shut and emergency services advised the public to stay at home.
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