An Israeli reserve solider takes photos of his family in the snow near the Quneitra border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Snowstorms hit Eastern Mediterranean, army called out in Greece

Snow reaches Libya as dump in the region being called the worst in 40 years

Greece called in the armed forces Wednesday to help repair widespread damage caused by heavy snowfall in Athens, while blizzards continued to cause havoc in neighbouring Turkey and with the snow reaching as far as Libya.

The Athens snowstorm, described by authorities as the most severe in 40 years, blanketed the city and its ancient monuments Tuesday and left parts of the capital without power and water.

Armed forces service members, including marines, used cranes and chain saws to help fire crews clear hundreds of downed trees that damaged the electricity network and blocked roads.

More than 800 fallen trees in greater Athens struck power lines, and hundreds more were reported in nearby areas including the island of Evia off the coast of the southeast mainland.

“The main challenge now is to restore the power supply to homes. This storm caused problems around the country,” Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said.

“In Evia alone, 500 damaged electricity posts and pylons were replaced. The army and crews from civilian agencies worked through the night and are continuing to work now.”

Later authorities said power had been restored to about 45,000 households on the outskirts of Athens since Wednesday morning, leaving about 25,000 without, and efforts were being redoubled to reconnect them.

Weather conditions improved in Greece Wednesday but continued to cause extensive problems to the east, in Turkey, where blizzards continued to sweep across northern parts of the country as the cold front made its way across the eastern Mediterranean. Snow reached an area in northeastern Libya for the first time in 15 years, and a snowstorm caused road closures in northern Syria.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, icy roads caused multiple car accidents and authorities said up to 50 centimetres (some 20 inches) of snow has accumulated in the metropolis’ higher-altitude districts.

Elsewhere in Turkey, 22 people were injured after a passenger bus slid off a highway in the central province of Aksaray and overturned, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Heavy snowfall also closed highways and access to dozens of villages in eastern Turkey and closed schools recently reopened due to pandemic restrictions.

— Derek Gatopoulos And Suzan Fraser, The Associated Press

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