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Greek prime minister apologises after heavy snowfall strands hundreds of vehicles

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
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Stranded vehicles have been covered with snow for three days along the Attiki Odos road in Athens.
Stranded vehicles have been covered with snow for three days along the Attiki Odos road in Athens.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has apologised to drivers who were stranded on Greek roads due to heavy snowfall.

Mitsotakis offered a “personal and sincere apology” during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but blamed private road operators for mishandling the reaction to the storm.

"There were mistakes and shortcomings which have to be fixed," he added.

Hundreds of vehicles have been left stranded and covered in snow for three days near Athens, as authorities struggle to clear blocked roads.

The Greek army has been working to help municipal workers remove abandoned cars from a toll road linking the capital to its international airport.

Vassilis Halkias, the CEO of the private company managing the Attiki Odos ring road, resigned on Tuesday evening. The company had earlier announced that they would award €2,000 in damages to drivers who were left stranded on the toll road.

Heavy snowfall has caused major disruptions in Greece and neighbouring Turkey, halting flights, blocking highways, and causing power outages.

Thousands of drivers were left trapped on major roads in the Greek capital for hours, with many forced to spend the night in their cars in freezing temperatures.

Many city streets were still blocked by snowfall on Wednesday, while several regions in the capital were still without power.

Outrage against the Greek government has been growing, with several national newspapers declaring the snowstorm a "fiasco".

Other Greek social media users criticised the authorities for a lack of snowploughs and snow-clearing equipment.

Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides -- who was only appointed after last year's devastating wildfires -- has also apologised but blamed the crisis on the Attiki Odos company.

In neighbouring Turkey, life was slowly returning to normal on Wednesday after the heavy snowfall.

Authorities at Istanbul's international airport announced that they had reopened two of their three runways, with the third due to resume traffic later in the day.

Hundreds of passengers had been left stranded in the airport's terminals, unable to fly or travel to the city.