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Heaviest snow in Greece since 1963

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece has suffered further heavy snowfalls in what has proved to be its harshest winter in four decades.

Hundreds of motorists and dozens of villages have become stranded by ice and snow drifts and a state of emergency has been declared in certain areas.

One elderly woman was found dead in a suburb of Athens after being exposed to the freezing conditions which have stretched across the country including Athens and as far south as Crete.

Meteorologists said on Sunday that the icy blast is the worst to hit Greece since 1963.

Greece was not the only country to be affected, with the chill reaching Bulgaria and Turkey, where four people have died.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis urged residents in his country to stay at home rather than venture out.

He said: "I would like to call on all citizens to be careful and limit their movements.

"This is an unusual phenomenon and beautiful to watch but also dangerous."

Roads have been blocked for three days and airports are beginning to resume a limited number of flights after being closed.

Troops and emergency services are attempting to clear roads in central and southern parts of Greece.

Key roads became blocked around Athens after up to 60 centimetres of snow fell on the outskirts of the Greek capital forcing hundreds of car passengers to spend about 20 hours trapped in their vehicles.

Snow chains were needed on vehicles attempting to drive in the city centre.

More than 150 towns in central Greece were cut off by snow and the region was also affected by sporadic power shortages.

Hospitals in the Athens area were placed in a state of heightened readiness to deal with any problems.

The snowfall and subfreezing temperatures were part of a rare winter storm affecting many parts of the southern Balkans.

Four people froze to death in Turkey and seven were missing as heavy snowfall paralysed the country for a second consecutive day, Turkish television said on Saturday.

Thousands of villages had become isolated because of the worst snow in years. In northern Bulgaria, a state of emergency was called in three municipalities where roads were blocked and power cuts left numerous towns and villages without electricity, civil defence officials said.


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• Blizzards close Berlin airport
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• Snow leaves northern Spain cut-off
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