By Poly Pantelides
Nicosia on Thursday night got its first glimpse of snow in years amid the bitter cold, as emergency crews worked throughout the day to restore access to several communities cut off from heavy snowfall.
Island-wide efforts continued in order to clear roads leading to villages and restore power to various areas.
Snowfall on Thursday night was reported in hilly regions in the Nicosia district, including the village of Pera Horio, as well as Alambra, Larnaca district.
The white also reached the suburbs of the capital in places like Latsia and Dali and up to the CyBC area inside the city.
Snow began falling at the GSP football stadium just outside Nicosia about an hour before a UEFA Europa League fixture there got underway; the game went ahead as scheduled.
Dali mayor Leontios Kallenos told the CyBC evening news bulletin that the last time it snowed there was 20 years ago.
All roads leading to the Troodos mountains were closed off for all vehicles.
Earlier, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said they would be on alert overnight to attend to problems that might arise. The number of villages cut off yesterday morning had reached 37 overnight as snowfall continued in mountainous areas. Even at midday on Thursday a barometer in Kyperounda read -2C. The coldest temperature overnight was -6C.
By afternoon, authorities had cleared access to several villages but access to 19 villages was blocked because of heavy snow. Various departments worked together throughout the day to clear roads and address other problems in the affected areas.
Power has been restored to communities that experienced cuts yesterday and the day before.
Some communities had to do without power Wednesday night as electricity authority (EAC) technicians could not access blocked roads, EAC spokesman Costas Gavrielides said.
One EAC crew even got stuck in the Nicosia district, and had to abandon their vehicle to return to the city with police help, he said.
With the weather expected to remain bad on Friday EAC technicians would be on standby, Gavrielides said, while minor faults were to be expected. The EAC received thousands of phone calls since the bout of bad weather on Wednesday, coming to over 6,000 by yesterday afternoon. Bigger faults are automatically flagged in the system, and a crew is then sent to an impacted area, Gavrielides said.
Meanwhile, all district offices were busy clearing roads and addressing problems but dozens of schools remained closed in affected areas.
The Nicosia deputy district officer, where most of the cut-off villages are located, said roads were cleared as far as Pedhoulas by afternoon. Marios Panayides said about 25 crews were working in various Nicosia communities alongside local authorities.
Crews were using diggers, snow ploughs, and other equipment, to clear roads leading to villages, Panayides said.
In Pedhoulas, police and the community council brought over medicines and basic food items to residents who had been cut off on Wednesday night, he said. One resident told TV cameras: “It’s one thing to see pictures on television but it’s another thing to actually live it”.
Most problems being endured by residents were no heating and in some cases no water. Men gathered in local coffeeshops to keep warm but most people sat inside by an open fire.
Limassol district had eight crews working with diggers and graders. Officials said clearing roads was made harder because snow had packed heavy but added they had plenty of staff and equipment on standby.
The Larnaca district administration said crews were working with diggers in the villages of Vavatsinia, Odou, and Ayii to clear the roads.
The administration also sent over a grader in the Kato Drys-Chirokitia area where bad weather had created a landslide risk.
A home in Maroni was evacuated on Wednesday night when an uprooted 20-metre Cypress tree looked like it would fall on the dwelling. Volunteers, and crews from the civil defence, police and the district administration temporarily propped up the tree, which had to be chopped down yesterday.
Paphos district officer Yiannis Mallourides said their crew and about 10 vehicles belonging to the administration remained on standby as the bad weather left Paphos relatively unscathed.
Farmers in the Famagusta district spent the night trying to protect their crops and animals from the bitter cold although there was damage to greenhouses in the area. Agriculture ministry officials were due to inspect the cultivations. The Green party said the cost from the damage was “incalculable” and called authorities to support the farmers whose crops were destroyed.
It will continue being cold and windy throughout Cyprus with more snow forecast for mountainous areas, the met office has said. Saturday is expected to be somewhat warmer.
Latest police list of all cut-off villages:
Kannavia, Milikouri, Ayia Irini, Moutoulas, Farmakas, Alona, Polystippos, Askas, Fterikoudi, Apliki, Gouri, Lazania, Macheras, Kionia, Platanistasa
Limassol district: Ayios Theodoros, Prodromos
All roads to Troodos are closed.
Several roads are closed, dangerous, and open only to four-wheel vehicles equipped with snow chains.
Police are urging the public to avoid unnecessary travel and check road conditions before travelling.
Announcements can be found on the force’s website: www.police.gov.cy, on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cypolice) and their Twitter account (twitter.com/Cyprus_Police). (Greek only)
People can also call the hotline 1460 or the HQ on 22808080.