Turkey pauses for three days of snow

The first winter snowstorm forces road closures and flight cancellations in Istanbul and along the Black Sea coast.

    Turkey pauses for three days of snow
    The rate of snowfall was overwhelming for a time at Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey [Reuters]

    The heavy snowfall that hit northern and central Turkey in the last days of 2015 has continued into the New Year, causing flight cancellations and road chaos.

    The bad weather prompted Istanbul authorities to warn residents against going outside unless necessary, while officials said they had more than 1,000 vehicles and heavy machinery ready to keep roads open.

    Turkish Airlines cancelled approximately 300 flights in and out of the main Ataturk airport and many at Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul's second airport.

    Budget airline Pegasus said it had cancelled over 30 flights arriving or departing from Sabiha Gokcen.

    Ferries across the Bosphorus Strait bisecting Istanbul were disrupted but the waterway remained open to shipping.

    The problem here was the strength of wind, roughing up the water and bringing blizzard visibility.

    At least one person was killed and 30 were injured in a mass pile-up on a major road into Istanbul involving 13 cars.

    Another large-scale accident saw 15 vehicles collide in a district of Istanbul, leaving three people with life-threatening injuries.

    Since the snow started on Wednesday evening, 18cm has accumulated at Ataturk airport, far more in drifts. Northerly winds gusted to between 50 and 60 km per hour throughout Wednesday and Thursday.

    Unsurprisingly, the temperature has dropped rapidly too.

    Every day in December has been unusually warm, registering above 10C, but as the cold front passed over Istanbul that all changed.

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    The temperature dropped steadily on Wednesday to 3C, while on Thursday it stayed below zero.

    But on the first day of 2016, as the sun showed itself, the thermometer crept above zero.

    Istanbul has seen a lot of snow but elsewhere in Turkey it is much worse. Bartin, a city a little to the east of Zongledak, has gathered 78cm of snow, all since Wednesday.

    Curiously, little snow has penetrated inland to the capital, Ankara. The city, sitting 900 metres above sea level, is cold - the New Year was greeted with -11C - but is virtually free of snow.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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