Istanbul Airport Suspends Operations as Winter Storm Sends Chills Across Mediterranean

Turkey and Greece face frigid temperatures and heavy snow, as Israel braces for winter storm Elpis

The city of Athens with the Parthenon temple atop the ancient Acropolis hill during a snowfall, on Monday.
The city of Athens with the Parthenon temple atop the ancient Acropolis hill during a snowfall, on Monday.Credit: Thanassis Stavrakis /AP

As Israel prepares for winter storm Elpis, which is expected to arrive on Wednesday, other Mediterranean countries, from Greece to Egypt, have begun to contend with snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.

Many parts of Turkey have been hit with heavy snowfall since the weekend, prompting authorities to shut schools in some parts of the country. Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Authority (AFAD) has said Monday that thousands were stranded due to the adverse weather.

In a statement, AFAD said 4,603 people were stranded across the country and that emergency teams had delivered thousands of containers of food and drinks to them, adding 6,750 people were taken to dormitories in seven provinces nationwide.

Authorities halted all flights at Istanbul Airport for one hour on Monday due to heavy snowfall in the city, state broadcaster TRT Haber, while many other parts of Turkey experienced transportation difficulties due to the bad weather.

The July 15th Martyrs' Bridge and The Ottoman-era Mecidiye Mosque, in Istanbul late Sunday.Credit: Emrah Gurel /AP

A severe weather front has hit Greece as well, with below-freezing temperatures and snowfall in many parts of the country, including the capital Athens and many Aegean islands.

Authorities have warned the public to limit their movements outdoors to the essential on Monday and Tuesday, while schools shifted to online classes only. Coronavirus vaccination appointments scheduled for Monday and Tuesday in one children’s hospital in Athens were rescheduled for later in the week in a different location.

The snow was coming down thick and fast in central Athens, settling on the marble columns of the ancient Acropolis. Authorities sent out emergency alerts to cell phones in the wider Athens area on Monday morning warning of severe snowfall over the next few hours and calling on people to avoid any unnecessary movement. Snow chains were mandatory for cars in parts of the northern fringes of the capital.

The Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896, during a snowfall in Athens, on Monday.Credit: Thanassis Stavrakis /AP

Snow is common in the Greek mountains and in the northern part of the country, but is more infrequent in central Athens and on Aegean islands. Last year, the Greek capital was hit by a major snowstorm that caused severe problems, knocking out power for days in certain neighborhoods and making all streets impassable without snow chains. Thousands of trees buckled and fell from the weight of the snow.

In Israel, rainy weather is expected to turn briefly into heavy snow on Wednesday, only to turn to rain later in the day. The Israel Meteorological Service warned of flooding in coastal cities and in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea area, as well as unseasonably cold temperatures. The plummeting temperatures and heavy rain have led to multiple rescues and at least one known death.

Last week, a snowstorm dubbed "Hiba" left Lebanese and Syrians searching for shelter and warmth amid the countries' soaring poverty. Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan sheltered in poorly heated tents relying mostly on layers of blankets to keep warm.

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