Ns News Online Desk: Istanbul is facing its worst snowfall in years, paralyzing traffic and leaving drivers stranded on main roads for hours despite warnings against travel and amid criticism of the municipality for poor management of the situation Heavy snowfall blanketed Istanbul on Monday and more precipitation and blizzards are expected up until the early hours of Wednesday.
Officials issued warnings on road safety late Monday, while traffic came to a complete standstill, leaving hundreds stranded on major roads, particularly on the city’s European side.
The snowfall was some of the worst in recent memory for the city but for some, the situation worsened when Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) failed to take precautions to keep roads open. The municipality has denied the accusations, saying it has been constantly working to clear the snow-covered roads.
The snowfall increased on Monday and all intercity bus services were suspended until 8 a.m. on Tuesday, while motorists were strongly advised against departing Thrace for Istanbul. The governorate on Tuesday extended the suspension until 9 a.m. Wednesday. The suspension was lifted on Tuesday evening as the governorate announced all major roads were reopened.
All vehicles, except mass transit and those on duty – snowplows, emergency vehicles, etc. – have been banned from entering traffic until 1 p.m. on Tuesday under the orders of the governorate. Disabled and pregnant civil servants were already put on administrative leave in the city. Public offices in Istanbul were ordered to end their shifts at 3:30 p.m. local time due to an expected increase in the snowfall in the evening and related difficulties in transportation, Governor Ali Yerlikaya announced later on Monday. Universities were also shut down until Jan. 31.
Other schools have already been closed since last week as the semester break began. Also, civil servants in Istanbul, except for security, health and transportation services, were allowed administrative leave on Tuesday. The governorate revised the decision later, giving another day off for Wednesday as well as administrative leave for disabled and pregnant civil servants until Jan. 29. Meanwhile, shopping malls will shut early at 7:30 p.m. local time, 2 1/2 hours earlier than usual.
Amid the snowstorm crippling life in Istanbul, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu and Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) head Yunus Sezer were ordered to head to the metropolitan city by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan early Tuesday to examine the situation and coordinate efforts to help the affected population. The city’s governorate had announced that e-scooters were banned from traffic for Monday, while motorcycle couriers, who play a crucial role in the delivery of food and basic items during the bad weather, were also banned from traffic on Monday.
There was no major disruption to traffic in the metropolis early Monday. Main roads and streets were largely open with smooth-flowing traffic while alleys and smaller streets, especially those located on slopes, posed a challenge for drivers, who struggled to keep their vehicles on the road.