The unprecedented snow storm, ironically dubbed “Elpida” (hope), in Attica turned the 70 kilometre-long Attiki Odos motorway turned into a nightmare for thousands of entrapped drivers and fuelled intense opposition criticism even as the government placed the blame on the Attiki Odos company that has the motorway concession.

The government has marshalled the military to extricate trapped drivers and passengers, who have been trapped for over seven hours, as the motorway has effectively been transformed into a huge parking lot.

At a televised briefing this afternoon, Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides placed the blame on the company and said he would recommend to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that the company’s management of the weather emergency be probed.

Prosecutor’s probe, enraged and desperate drivers

The head of the Athens Prosecutor’s office, Sotiria Papageorgakopoulou, has ordered a preliminary investigation to seek responsibility for the crime of disruption of transportation.

Entrapped drivers, many with children or elderly people, expressed their rage and desperation and said they have become a ping pong ball in the skirmish between the civil protection ministry and the Attiki Odos company.

There were queues of many kilometres. Under an endless blanket of snow, thousands of vehicles were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, unable to move forward or in reverse.

The Hellenic Fire Service was forced to ask Traffic Police not to allow cars to approach the entries and exits of Attiki Odos.

‘It took three hours to advance 950 metres’

“We entered Attiki Odos at 13:30 at the Koropi entry and now we have proceeded only 950 metres,” entrapped driver Yorgos Tzerefos told MEGA television.

“We called the Attiki Odos 1024 [help line] number, but it is easier to win a lottery than for them to answer. We called the civil protection ministry and they told us Attiki Odos is responsible,” he underlined.

Attiki Odos’ announcement

In an announcement, the Attiki Odos company attributed the mayhem to trucks that folded on the highway near Gerakas, blocking the road and essentially trapping the company’s snow machines (which it said are over 30). It also said it was fully equipped with machinery and salt but that most cars were without snow chains.

Attica traffic police banned the circulation of heavy vehicles (over 3.5 tonnes) in both directions of Attiki Odos on the ring roads of Hymettus and Egaleo, for reasons of security and due to extreme weather conditions, until the storm recedes.

According to Traffic Police, road assistance trucks carrying salt and emergency vehicles are exempted from the restriction.

For its part, Greek Police is reportedly doing everything possible to relieve the traffic situation in both directions of Attiki Odos from Paiania to Metamporphosis.