Istanbul, Jan 9, 2017 (AFP) - Heavy snowfall in Istanbul paralysed traffic and grounded hundreds of flights for a third straight day Monday, while the Bosphorus closed to shipping traffic. In freezing temperatures and heavy winds, the Bosphorus, one of the world's busiest shipping bottlenecks, shut due to poor visibility, Turkish coastguards said. All passenger ferry services, popular with commuters between the Asian and European side of Turkey's largest city, were also cancelled. Schools were shut across the city and were to remain closed Tuesday, the city's governor's office announced. In the deepest snowfall since 2015, hundreds of flights have been cancelled over the last three days, stranding thousands of international passengers in Istanbul.
An official from Turkey's flagship carrier Turkish Airlines said that 314 flights had been cancelled on Monday. On a normal day, the airport can accommodate over 1,500 landings and take-offs. Some international flights were expected to resume after 6pm (1500 GMT), but all domestic flights to and from Ataturk airport had been scrapped. Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi told angry stranded travellers the problems were due to a lack of take-off and landing slots at Ataturk in the snowy conditions.
Over 10,000 travellers unable to reach Istanbul had been accommodated in hotels worldwide, while well over 5,000 who could not leave were put up in the city, Eksi said. Turkish low-cost airline Pegasus also cancelled 74 domestic and international flights on Monday. The Istanbul municipality meanwhile sent over 1,300 vehicles and 7,000 personnel into the streets to clear the snow. The cold snap was provoking economic blues for some in the country's largest city. "The weather has had a bad effect on business," grumbled 22-year-old barista Ahmet Burak, who works at a coffee shop near the city's iconic Taksim square. He said people attending a nearby theatre usually dropped in for a cup but "the plays were cancelled due to snow, so our revenues dropped by half." But as youngsters engaged in snowball fights, Ibrahim Inceoglu, a property dealer in Taksim square, scoffed at Istanbul locals who he said were "scared of snow". "Had it snowed here just like in southeast Anatolia, the people of Istanbul would really starve," he said. "I don't see the problem. The main transport routes are open, life should continue as normal," he said.