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Turkish Airlines extends suspension of flights due to heavy snow

National flag carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) extended the suspension of its flights to and from Istanbul Airport until midnight Wednesday due to heavy snowfall, while winter weather snarled transport across the city.

Istanbul Airport, Europe’s busiest last year, also delayed its reopening on Tuesday as Turkey’s biggest city began digging itself out of the major snowstorm that paralyzed traffic and disrupted services.

Rescue crews on Tuesday were forging ahead with efforts to clear major throughways in and around Istanbul.

A blizzard on Monday shut Istanbul Airport down for the first time since it took over from the Atatürk Airport as Turkish Airlines’ new hub in 2019.

It had warned that operations would be suspended throughout the night after grounding to a halt in the early afternoon.

Its press service said Tuesday that flights would not resume until at least 1 p.m. (10 a.m. GMT) over safety concerns. Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gökçen, was operating limited services.

It added that passengers stuck aboard flights after the shutdown was announced had been fully evacuated by nightfall.

Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Tuesday that a runway of Istanbul Airport was cleared for flights and the first plane, a flight from Venezuela’s Caracas to Istanbul, landed at 12:30 p.m local time. Another flight from Mexico’s Cancun followed it. Flights diverted to other airports earlier would subsequently land at the airport throughout the day, AA reported. Meanwhile, a ban on other flights will remain in place.

The city of 16 million people stood effectively still on Tuesday because of orders for drivers to stay off the streets.

Istanbul’s iconic “simit” bagel shops stood empty for the second day running, while food delivery service apps did not work.

The governor’s office also urged residents who abandoned their cars on highways because traffic had ground to a halt to return and take their vehicles homes.

“Please, let’s quickly remove our vehicles,” Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya pleaded on Twitter.

The closure of Istanbul Airport – where a worker miraculously avoided injury when the roof of one of the cargo terminals collapsed under the snow – grounded flights from the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.

Istanbul Airport served more than 37 million passengers last year despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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