A severe weather front has hit Greece, with below-freezing temperatures and snowfall in many parts of the country, including the capital Athens and many Aegean islands.
Authorities have warned the public to limit their movements outdoors to the essential on Monday and Tuesday, while schools in many areas were shut. Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said more than 46,000 school classes across the country were being held online.
The snow was coming down thick and fast in central Athens, settling on the marble columns of the ancient Acropolis. Authorities sent out emergency alerts to cell phones in the wider Athens area on Monday morning warning of severe snowfall over the next few hours and calling on people to avoid any unnecessary movement. Snow chains were mandatory for cars in parts of the northern fringes of the capital, and trucks were banned from circulation.
The health ministry announced that COVID-19 vaccination centers in the wider Athens region of Attica and on the nearby island of Evia would shut at 3 p.m. Monday and would remain closed on Tuesday because of the heavy snowfall. Appointments that had been arranged for Monday afternoon and for Tuesday would be rescheduled.
Oikonomou said conditions would continue to be “difficult” on Tuesday. Civil protection authorities have set up coordination centers with the participation of the fire department, police, the armed forces and local authorities to tackle any potential problems, he said.
Snow is common in the Greek mountains and in the northern part of the country but is more infrequent in central Athens and on the Aegean islands. Last year, the Greek capital was hit by a major snowstorm that caused severe problems, knocking out power for days in certain neighborhoods and making all streets impassable without snow chains. Thousands of trees buckled and fell from the weight of the snow.
In neighboring Albania to the north, all elementary and high schools closed for three days this week because of cold weather. Authorities advised people to avoid driving as freezing temperatures hit across the country.
Temperatures reached -17 C (about 1 F) in eastern Albania, isolating some areas and causing problems to the electricity and water supply. Many rural roads have been blocked.