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Thousands rescued, more remain stranded on snow-hit Turkish highway

 Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk:Most of Turkey grappled with heavy snowfall Wednesday that stranded more than 2,000 people on a major highway in the south, disrupted transportation and shut down roads elsewhere It is winter at its worst for Turkey this week as snowfall and blizzards set in, spelling trouble for the population in most of the country’s 81 provinces. Traffic disruption and difficulty in accessing remote locations are among the major woes of the public.

Thousands of people were stranded on a highway connecting the country’s southern provinces as heavy snowfall and a blizzard hit the region late Tuesday and Wednesday. Some 2,800 people trapped in their cars in motionless traffic were evacuated by crews.

Gaziantep Governor Davut Gül said that the stranded people were motorists and passengers on Tarsus-Adana-Gaziantep Motorway (TAG), which was closed to traffic on Tuesday night. Gül told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they prioritized the sick among the stranded and each of them was taken to the nearest hospitals. Around 186 people in need of medical care were evacuated to hospitals. He said the crews also distributed food to some 7,000 people on the highway where the vehicles could not move to low visibility and thick snow.

Gül said crews helped 1,780 vehicles stuck on the road but “at least 2,800 more people” were still stranded. Social media was flooded with messages about people waiting for help for hours on Tuesday night and early hours of Wednesday.

The governor said the main cause of the disruption on the highway was several long-haul trucks that were involved in accidents and slowed down the traffic. The work was underway on Wednesday morning to remove the broken down trucks but an ongoing blizzard posed a challenge. The governor urged the public living near the area not to drive on Wednesday. Later on, the governorate banned drivers from leaving Gaziantep.

In a rare phenomenon for the region, Gaziantep itself was heavily hit by snowfall and the traffic came to a standstill in the province, one of the most populated in the country. Temperatures were around minus 3 degrees Celsius (minus 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the province early Wednesday. A thick layer of snow covering the city center reached 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) overnight.

Mehmet Çiftçi, a driver who was stranded on the highway, said he left Gaziantep on Tuesday evening for a trip to Tarsus, a town in Mersin province. He said it took more than one hour to drive a short distance before the highway traffic completely stopped.

The snowfall ceased on Wednesday, but roads and streets were still blanketed with snow, forcing people to commute on foot in Gaziantep, as public buses were also missing from the dangerously icy streets. Power outages were also reported in several neighborhoods. Gaziantep’s municipality announced that the work was continuing to clear the snow and keep roads open by pouring salt on them.

Later during the day, the Turkish military dispatched helicopters to the highway, delivering food to the stranded passengers and drivers. The Defense Minister announced that two helicopters were deployed to the highway for medical evacuations and food aid to the stranded people. Two tow trucks sent by the army also joined efforts to remove trucks trapped in snowfall from the road to ease the traffic.

The Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced that a total of 722 roads to villages in Bolu, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaraş, Artvin and Bingöl were closed to transportation due to bad weather. Some 136 traffic accidents due to bad weather were reported in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.



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