ISTANBUL ( Associated Press) — Rescuers in Istanbul and Athens scrambled on Tuesday to clear roads that were stalled after a massive cold front and snow storms swept across Turkey and Greece, leaving countless people and people dead in both cities. The vehicles were stuck overnight in cold conditions.
Highways and roads in and around Istanbul were closed on Monday after storms engulfed a city of about 16 million people that span the European and Asian continents – with some areas collecting more than 80 centimeters (31 inches) of snow She goes.
Stranded motorists either spent the night in cars, abandoned their vehicles to walk home or crowded subways and other public transportation.
Rescue teams worked overnight to clear icy roads and highways, but abandoned vehicles hampered their operation. Istanbul government Ali Yerlikaya urged motorists to return to their vehicles and move them.
In Athens, rescuers were still trying to free some 200-300 drivers stranded on a major highway that runs into Athens and connects the Greek capital to the city’s international airport.
Some drivers likewise left their cars and went home. Others trekked to a nearby railway station, jumping over roadside obstacles to reach the platform after spending the night in their cars. Train service was suspended, but a train was there on Tuesday morning to pick up those reaching the station from the highway.
The army was sent out overnight to provide food and water to the stranded people and to provide free help to as many people as possible.
Istanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center, or AKOM, says an Icelandic low pressure system is behind the cold front and precipitation affecting much of the country.
Interior Minister Suleiman Soylu said snowfall in and around Istanbul would continue until Thursday and urged people not to venture out in private cars unless necessary. He said many of the stranded vehicles did not have snow tires.
Authorities suspended flights at Istanbul airport – where the roof of a cargo facility fell from a load of snow on Monday – over safety concerns. But Transport Minister Adil Karaismailolu said limited flights would resume soon. Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen, was also operating limited services.
“Nothing is going on. The snow plows can’t reach us,” 40-year-old Ahmet Odabasi, one of thousands of travelers stranded overnight on a highway west of Istanbul, told the Associated Press by telephone.
“I am stuck here for 12 hours. I am lucky that I have gas, food and water,” said the motorist, who was on his way to Istanbul from the city of Edirne, near the border with Greece.
Officials in Greece warned people to limit themselves to essential activities and use snow chains on city streets, but many people left for work in the morning when the snowfall was very light and they returned to their cars as the day progressed. Got stuck in Feather. Some of the problems were reportedly caused by trucks that slammed onto the road and got jack-knife, blocking traffic.
There was intense criticism from the authorities and the highway management for allowing a situation in which drivers were stuck for so long.
The blizzard, complete with thunder and lightning, hit the wider Athens region on Monday morning, causing a large amount of snow to lash the city. This is the second year in a row that Greece has received severe snowfall. Similar weather in February last year caused thousands of trees to be felled by loads of snow in city streets, parks and forests around Athens.
Officials said the Greek prime minister contacted the highway’s administration and asked each stranded driver to receive 2,000 euros (2,265) in compensation, which was accepted by the highway administration.
The severe weather also brought rare snowfall to holiday resorts in Turkey’s southwest region, including Bodrum and Datka, with snow and slippery conditions blocking a highway connecting Mugla and Denizli provinces. Private NTV television reported that Antalya city center on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast saw snowfall for the first time in 29 years.
In Istanbul, AKOM manager Selçuk Tutunku told Associated Press that 40,000 tons of salt have been used to clear roads since the start of the storm.
“There are more than 1,500 vehicles right now and over 7,000 personnel are working relentlessly in the field,” Tutunku said.
On Monday, authorities in Istanbul suspended intercity bus services and halted travel to the city from Turkey’s northwestern Thrace region. Civil servants were allowed to stay at home on Tuesday, except those employed in the security, health and transport sectors. Schools have already been closed throughout Turkey due to the winter break.
Imamoglu said that the Istanbul municipality has provided shelter to about 1,500 homeless people. Imamoglu said the teams have left about two tonnes of food for the stray cats and dogs.
The mayor said he hoped the snow would fill the dams and provide relief to the drought-stricken region.
Elena Beketoros reported from Athens, Greece. Suzanne Fraser contributed on behalf of Ankara.