Heavy snow brings life to halt in Istanbul
Troubled by the heaviest snowfalls seen in decades, Turkey’s most populous province Istanbul is experiencing adverse cold weather, with roads blocked, flights and intercity transportation canceled and thousands of vehicles stranded on highways blanketed with snow.
“Precipitation will continue until Friday [Jan. 28] with impact decreasing” Orhan Şen, a prominent meteorologist said on Jan. 25.
Hit by a cold wave coming from Central Europe on Jan. 21, the metropolis once again was hit by heavy snowfalls coming from the Black Sea on Jan. 24.
Highways and roads on the European side of the city were blocked by snow as of 3 p.m., with the traffic density reaching some 90 percent.
“We witnessed 60 kilograms [per metercube] of snow in eight hours,” Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said in a press conference.
The western entrance of the city, known as the “Mahmutbey tolls,” turned into a “cemetery of vehicles” as thousands left their cars on the highway and walked home.
“We have evacuated around 5,000 people stuck in the traffic. Some 3,000 people were accommodated in public guest houses late on Jan. 24,” Ali Yerlikaya, the city’s governor, announced on Twitter.
Turkey’s Red Crescent teams delivered thousands of food packages to people who took shelters in public institutions, hospitals and gas stations in the districts of Kemerburgaz, Beylikdüzü, Silivri, Esenyurt, Tekstilkent, Bayrampaşa and Çatalca. Some people even spent the night in mosques in the province’s western Arnavutköy district.
Thousands of people stranded in these districts uploaded videos showing the roads covered with snow and asking local authorities for help.
“I could not go to my house for 21 hours,” Şafak Sezer, a Turkish comedian, told İhlas News Agency, after being stranded in his vehicle near the “Mahmutbey tolls.”
Local officials took harsh measures to stop people from leaving their houses on Jan. 25. Many public workers were granted leave of absence as the governor’s office banned private vehicles on roads until 1 p.m. on Jan. 25.
Flights at Istanbul Airport were suspended from late Jan. 24 to midday of Jan. 25. However, national flag carrier Turkish Airlines, early on Jan. 25, announced that it canceled all its flights until the early hours of Jan. 26.
The governor’s office also prevented intercity buses to depart from the main bus terminals in the city.
On President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s directive, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu arrived in Istanbul on Jan. 25 to monitor relief works and cleaning efforts on the field.
Yunus Sezer, the head of Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), also joined the two ministers.
“[National Medical Rescue Team] UMKE is at service of Istanbul residents,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter, showing a photo of UMKE vehicles on snowy roads.
An UMKE team transferred a cancer patient who was stuck at home due to the heavy snowfall to a hospital, according to local reports.
The city was once again hit by new snow precipitation that started late on Jan. 25 and ended early on Jan. 26.
“The impact of the snowfalls will start to decrease as of the end of Jan. 26,” Şen said.
With an estimation of light precipitation on Jan. 27, the snow wave is expected to leave the city as of Jan. 28.
The last time Istanbul suffered such severe damage by snowfalls was in 1987, when residents of the city were stuck at homes for over a month. “The city’s population was around 4 million then. Now it is 20 million,” Şen added.