Thousands stranded as snow wreaks travel chaos in Turkey and Greece

  • Flights are slowly resuming in Istanbul
  • Thousands evacuated from Athens highway
  • Snow on Antalya beaches for the first time in 29 years

ISTANBUL/ATHENS, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Some flights from Istanbul airport resumed on Tuesday after nearly 24 hours of cancellations as heavy snow clogged roads and brought thousands of people across Turkey to a standstill and Greece.

In Athens, thousands of people were evacuated from a highway overnight and took shelter at the city’s airport after Monday’s severe snowstorm. On Tuesday, dozens of cars were still covered in snow as plows tried to clear the roads and anger grew among people trapped in freezing temperatures for hours. Read more

“The situation is hopeless,” said Spiros Kandaras, who spent 24 hours in his car. “They should be ashamed of this mess.”

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In Istanbul, the airport, among the largest in the world, found itself under a thick blanket of snow with covered runways and planes.

Snowfall began late last week and has intensified in recent days in the city of 16 million, delaying buses and ferries and prompting a ban on driving private vehicles.

“We’ve been here for more than 24 hours already,” said Selim Kilik, who planned to fly to Paris this week. He complained of a lack of staff and information.

An airport spokesman said the limited flights started around 10:00 GMT (1:00 p.m.) after a 10 p.m. delay, and scheduled flights would resume around midnight.

Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) said earlier it halted all flights until 21:00 GMT.

Ugurcan Guller, who was waiting for a domestic flight, said stranded passengers had problems with baggage, tickets and food at Istanbul airport.

“We have been sleeping miserably on the floor since yesterday,” he said. “We call on the authorities to find a solution for us.”

SNOWY BEACHES

General view of vehicles stuck on a highway following a heavy snowfall in Istanbul, Turkey, January 25, 2022. Photo taken with a drone. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

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Storms have swept across the region from Greece and across Turkey, as well as into Syria, where snow has halted aid deliveries to displaced families living in tent camps. Read more

In Turkey, snow blanketed the beaches of the seaside city of Antalya for the first time in 29 years. In a rare sight, Greece’s southern Aegean islands, including Mykonos, also turned white.

A video posted on social media showed a man skiing through the streets of Istanbul, people waving at him.

Governor Ali Yerlikaya took the rare step of banning private cars until 10:00 GMT, while officials were allowed until Wednesday to keep travel to a minimum.

Buses were suspended until Wednesday and vehicles arriving from the west of the city were banned.

Other images showed trucks and cars stuck along highways in and around Istanbul. The crossing through the Bosphorus Strait reopened on Tuesday, while people were evacuated from stranded vehicles, Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said. Read more

Across the country, around 4,600 people were stranded on roads and elsewhere, and thousands were placed in temporary accommodation, the Disaster and Emergencies Authority said.

Heavy snow is rare in Athens, but the city is now hit by extreme weather conditions for a second consecutive winter.

More than 3,500 people had been evacuated by Tuesday morning, some abandoning their cars on foot, but around 1,200 cars remained stuck on the Attiki Odos, the capital’s main ring road, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said.

As temperatures plummeted overnight, soldiers shoveled snow and distributed food, water and blankets to drivers, some of whom were stuck in their cars for more than 10 hours.

Parts of Athens were hit by power outages for several hours, and the grid operator said crews were working to restore power.

Authorities declared Tuesday and Wednesday a public holiday, closing schools, public offices and private businesses except pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations.

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Additional reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ceyda Caglayan in Istanbul and Vassilis Triandafyllou in Athens; Written by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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