Middle East

Flights halted and cars banned as snow silences Istanbul

ISTANBUL, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Flights were suspended for a second day at Istanbul Airport and private vehicles were barred from city streets on Tuesday, as heavy snowfall snarled traffic and left people stranded in Turkey’s biggest city and across the country.

Snowfall began late last week and picked up in recent days in the city of 16 million people. Footage from the airport, among the world’s largest, showed runways covered in a thick blanket of snow with aircraft and vehicles barely visible.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya took the rare step of banning private cars until 1000 GMT (1 p.m. local) as emergency teams cleaned up streets, while many public workers were granted administrative leave to keep commutes to a minimum.

A video posted on social media showed a man skiing through city streets late on Monday, with people waving as he passed. Far away in Turkey’s south, snow fell on the beaches of the resort city of Antalya for the first time in 29 years.

Istanbul Airport said on its website that flight operations had been suspended until 1000 GMT on Tuesday due to adverse weather conditions. Flag-carrier Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) said on Monday it had cancelled all flights from the airport.

Footage shared by the governor showed trucks and cars stranded along highways in and around the city. read more

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said 55,000 tonnes of salt had been used on roads and he called on Turks to clear snow in front of homes and shops to help emergency teams.

“We hope that if we overcome tonight with measures as well, we won’t have any problems left. May God protect everyone,” he said while visiting a salt facility.

Across the country some 4,600 people were left stranded on roads and elsewhere, and thousands had been placed in temporary housing, the Disaster and Emergency Authority said.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Michael Perry and Ed Osmond

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