Skip to main content

Turkey: Istanbul airport shuts down as snow causes havoc

Turkish cities brought to standstill as freezing weather conditions sweep through the country
People walk in a square covered by the snow in front of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul on 23 January 2022 (AFP)

Snow storms have wreaked havoc across Turkey since the weekend, causing Europe’s busiest airport in Istanbul to shut down. 

Turkish cities saw several inches of snow fall over the past few days, including in the capital Ankara, Van, Bolu and Istanbul. 

The scenes were met with joy and excitement from some locals, who took to social media to post pictures and videos of the snow-blanketed surroundings. 

Professor Ismail Koyuncu, rector at Istanbul Technical University, posted a video of students having a snowball fight. 

Translation: The latest situation of our Maslak campus after the final exams were postponed

But beyond the selfies and snowball fights, the adverse conditions caused severe disruption and closures. 

Istanbul Airport was temporarily closed down on Monday, in what travel officials told AFP was the first such closure since the new structure replaced Ataturk Airport in April 2019. 

Turkish Airlines said that it had cancelled all flights from Istanbul until Tuesday 0100 GMT to ensure “travel safety for our passengers”. 

The city's municipality tweeted on Monday that more snowfall was expected throughout the day, and locals should avoid non-essential travel. 

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced that those working in public institutions would be sent home early on Monday, while shopping malls also faced early closures.  

He also said there would be no departures from Istanbul’s major bus terminals until the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

The conditions led to widespread traffic and road closures, with travellers on a number of major highways across the country facing disruptions. 

Translation: Istanbul Esenyurt Hadimkoy road. Road closed and vehicles cannot move. The great migration has begun. Citizens poured into the roads under heavy snowfall

The main highway linking Ankara to Istanbul briefly closed over the weekend due to fog and snow, while roads were also closed across large parts of Turkey’s mountainous central and southeastern regions. 

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Authority said that 4,600 people were stranded across the country due to the weather, and over 6,700 had been taken to shelters.