Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures shut down schools, paralysed traffic and grounded airplanes in Greece and Turkey on Monday.
Athens was covered in several centimetres of snow and the outskirts were cut off due to heavy snow and ice on the roads following two days of snowfall. The Acropolis was also covered by a layer of snow, basking in the morning sunshine as temperatures hovered around freezing. Officials said Athens International Airport struggled to stay open. Only 35 flights had landed or taken off throughout Monday morning and 160 flights had been cancelled, airport officials said in a statement.
Many shops, offices and businesses remained closed for the day with only a handful of pedestrians walking the streets of the city centre as cars needed snow chains. Police said more than 200 car accidents had been reported in the past 36 hours due to icy roads and the fire brigade had received more than 170 calls for the transfer of patients to and from hospitals for regular treatment.
In Turkey, where snowfall and subzero temperatures forced the closure of schools and universities across much of the country, the Bosphorus strait was closed to transit shipping in the north-south direction since Sunday morning, the coast guard said. The strait is the only navigable waterway between the oil-shipping ports on the Black Sea and the Aegean.
“Like Siberia,” read the headline in Turkey’s Takvimnews paper, above pictures of snow ploughs, heavily wrapped-uppedes trians and a grounded airplane at Istanbul airplane. Hundreds of motorists were stranded around Turkey, some major roads were closed, thousands of villages were cut off and at least two people froze to death on Sunday and Monday, Turkish media reported. The capital Ankara witnessed 355 traffic accidents over the past 24 hours and nearly 30 people were injured, private broadcaster NTV said. Temperatures in Ankara were expected to remain below zero until Wednesday.
In Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, the bad weather caused more than 500 accidents. Snow also made a rare appearance on the islands of Crete and Mykonos early on Monday, while at least 100 villages on the island of Evia, Crete and central Greece were cut off.
In mountainous eastern Turkey, night temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius, and even parts of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast — normally clement in the winter months —experienced rare snowfall.