ATHENS, Greece: A severe snowstorm that swept across the Mediterranean region has stranded thousands of motorists on a motorway in the Greek capital, Athens.
On January 24, more than 3,500 people were rescued, but some 300 drivers remained on the Attiki Odos motorway overnight. Parts of the city were also affected by power outages.
According to authorities, the storm, named Elpida, which covered the iconic Acropolis in a blanket of snow, will continue until mid-week. Overnight temperatures plummeted to -14C.
In the face of criticism from some citizens on social media, officials defended the slow evacuation of motorists trapped on the motorway, saying a "superhuman evacuation effort is underway."
Environment Minister Christos Stylianides blamed the motorway's management company for the chaos, stressing it "failed to maintain normal traffic conditions, despite earlier promises that they will take adequate measures to do so," as quoted by the BBC.
On January 25, officials in Athens declared a public holiday, with public offices being shut and all private business in the city, except for supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations, ordered to close.
Officials have also urged drivers to remain off the streets.
It was also reported that 15 people were injured in central Greece after a rail transport vehicle attempted to reach a stranded passenger train carrying some 200 passengers.
Neighboring Turkey was also affected by severe weather, with up to 31 inches of snow falling in some areas of the country.
After runways were buried under a thick blanket of snow and the roof of a cargo terminal collapsed under heavy snows, Istanbul airport, one of the world's largest, was closed by authorities.
Also in Turkey, some 4,600 people have been stranded on motorways around the country, and beaches in the southern city of Antalya witnessed snow for the first time in 29 years.