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Istanbul paralysed as heavy snowstorm hits Turkey

Storm dumps almost 65cm of snow in parts of the Turkish city overnight, causing havoc on roads, ferries and in airports
Heavy snow blankets Taksim Square in Istanbul on 7 January (AFP)

A heavy snowstorm paralysed life in Istanbul on Saturday, with hundreds of flights cancelled and the Bosphorus closed to shipping traffic.

The snowstorm dumped almost 65cm of snow in parts of the Turkish metropolis overnight, causing havoc on roads as travellers sought to leave the city for the weekend getaway.

Many drivers abandoned their vehicles and set off on foot, while some stayed in their vehicles for more than 10 hours overnight as they waited for road conditions to improve, the Dogan news agency said.

For those not travelling, the snow however provided a rare chance to see Istanbul's famous minaret and dome-studded skyline caked in a white layer of snow.

Flag carrier Turkish Airlines cancelled some 500 flights from both the main Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen airports, with the snow also bringing poor visibility.

Four THY intercontinental flights - from India, Maldives, South Africa and Vietnam - bound for Istanbul were diverted to the southern city of Gaziantep north of Syria, the Dogan news agency said. 

About 6,000 of its passengers were transferred to hotels on Friday evening due to the cancellations and 20,000 meals were distributed to those stranded at the airport, the Anadolu agency said.

Coastguards ordered a halt to shipping traffic through the Bosphorus Strait - one of the world's busiest sea thoroughfares - in both directions due to the poor conditions.

Cars blanketed by snow in Istanbul suburb (MEE)

The municipal ferry company Sehir Hatlari which handles the regular passenger crossings between the European and Asian sides of the city announced that all its routes had been suspended for the day.

Istanbul's underground train system operated through the night for passengers unable to get home on the city's roads, which were disrupted by dozens of accidents by vehicles sliding on the icy surfaces, the municipality said in a statement

Forecasters predicted that the snowstorm would continue throughout the day before dwindling in the evening.

Temperatures well below freezing were expected in the days to come.

Winter wonderland: the view from the morning in Istanbul (MEE)

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