The closure of ground flights from Europe’s busiest airports stretching from the Middle East and Africa to Europe and Asia.
Europe’s busiest airport closed in Istanbul while schools and vaccination centers closed in Athens as a rare snowstorm blanketed swaths of the eastern Mediterranean region, causing power outages and havoc with traffic.
The closure of Istanbul airport, where the roof of one of the cargo terminals collapsed in heavy snow, causing no injuries, on Monday blocked flights connecting the Middle East and Africa to Europe and Asia.
Travel officials told AFP news agency it was the first closure of the gleaming glass and steel structure since it replaced Istanbul’s old Ataturk Airport as the new one. Turkish Airlines hub in 2019.
“Due to adverse conditions, all flights at Istanbul Airport have been temporarily halted for flight safety,” the airport said in a statement on Twitter.
Our teams are carrying out cleaning work on the apron, runway and taxiway to resume flight operations. ✈️ Despite unfavorable weather conditions and heavy snowfall, our work continues at full speed. 🌨️ pic.twitter.com/3Xlc3CzYVy
— İGA Istanbul Airport (@igairport) January 24, 2022
The shutdown caused a major headache for the 16 million residents of Turkey’s largest city, where cars rammed into each other as they skidded through steep, sleet-covered streets and highways crashed turned into parking lots.
Istanbul’s governor’s office warned drivers they could not enter the city from Thrace, a region that stretches across the European part of Turkey to its western border with Bulgaria and Turkey. Greece.
Malls closed early, food delivery services shuttered and the city’s iconic “simit” bagel stalls stood empty as vendors couldn’t make their way through the snow.
Traffic officers also closed major roads in large parts of central and southeastern Turkey, a mountainous region first hit by a snowstorm last week.
Istanbul Airport handled more than 37 million passengers last year, becoming one of the most important air hubs in the world.
But critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have long questioned his decision to place the airport on an isolated area along the Black Sea coast that is often covered in fog in winter.
Turkish Airlines announced that it was suspending all flights from Istanbul Airport until at least 4 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Tuesday.
“Difficult” situation in Greece
In Greece, the Ministry of Health announced that COVID-19 vaccination centers in the wider Athens region of Attica and on the neighboring island of Evia would close at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Monday and remain closed on Tuesday in due to heavy snowfall. .
Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said weather conditions would continue to be “difficult” on Tuesday.
Authorities warned the public to limit outdoor movement to only essentials on Monday and Tuesday, while schools in many areas were closed.
Oikonomou said more than 46,000 school classes across the country were taking place online.
Several domestic and international flights to Athens airport have been canceled, while metro service to the airport has been partially suspended as some of them run above ground.
A cold snap with sub-zero temperatures and high winds last hit Athens in February 2021, killing four people on the islands of Evia and Crete and leaving tens of thousands of homes without power for days .