Hundreds of flights grounded as snow blankets Istanbul

AFP , Thursday 31 Dec 2015

Turkey snowfall
A snow cutter cleans snow from the tarmac at Ataturk International airport in Istanbul, Turkey December 31, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of flights were cancelled on Thursday from Istanbul's two main airports after the city was hit by a picturesque but troublesome snowfall on the last day of the year.

The heavy snowfall left the historic capital of the Ottoman Empire veiled under a curtain of white with snow covering the domes of mosques and the hills by the Bosphorus.

Tourists flocked to take pictures of the city at its most wintry. But conditions were far less attractive for residents making their way around the metropolis or travelling for the New Year.

National carrier Turkish Airlines said it had cancelled 265 domestic and international flights from Istanbul's Ataturk Airport as well as 37 at Sabiha Gokcen airport on the Asian side of the city.

Private carrier Pegasus Airlines also cancelled 34 flights in and out of Sabiha Gokcen.

Istanbul had a thick covering of snow by early Thursday, while almost 30 centimetres (12 inches) fell in some parts of the city, causing disruptions to transport services and the closure of several roads.

All ferry services across the Bosphorus which bisects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul have been cancelled, city authorities said, warning citizens against non-essential travel.

Schools have also been shut down in more than 20 provinces across Turkey, Dogan news agency added.

The local authorities in Istanbul, who were heavily criticised over a slow response to a heavy snowfall in February, have mobilised 5,450 workers to deal with the situation and laid down almost 12 tonnes of salt.

The snowfall is expected to last until midday on New Year's Day.

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