Snowpocalypse hits the Acropolis: Thousands of motorists are stranded in their cars for up to 22 HOURS in Greece and Europe’s busiest airport is forced to close in Istanbul as snow hits the region

  • Snap blizzard buries much of Greece and Turkey in thick layers of snow, spelling traffic chaos for second day
  • Turkey’s Istanbul airport suspended operations until at least 10am GMT as heavy machinery clears runways 
  • More than 31ins of snow fell in some areas, as some of ancient Acropolis in Greece was pictured submerged  
  • Thousands of motorists were left stranded in sub-freezing conditions overnight in both Turkey and Greece
  • Rescue crews and soldiers drafted in to provide essential supplies to motorists who refused to leave cars
  • Drivers ordered to remove their vehicles in Istanbul, as further flurry of snow expected throughout Tuesday 

Rescue crews worked throughout the night to save thousands of stranded motorists in Greece and Europe’s busiest airport in Istanbul was forced to close as a snowstorm caused travel chaos for Mediterranean countries.

The rare snap blizzard blanketed huge parts of Greece and Turkey on Monday night as more than 31 inches of snow fell in some areas, paralysing traffic and hamstringing services for a second consecutive day.

Parts of the ancient Acropolis in Athens were submerged in a thick layer of snow, while heavy machinery worked through the night to plough a path for aircraft to safely operate at Istanbul Airport on Tuesday. 

Thousands were left to endure below-freezing conditions in their vehicles overnight in both Greece and Turkey as highways and roads were left largely inaccessible after being battered by the snowstorm. 

Soldiers were drafted in to deliver food, water and blankets to motorists who were left stranded in their cars on Attiki Odos, the Greek capital’s main ring-road, for up to 22 hours according to local media.

Drivers were ordered to stay off the streets after cars ploughed into one another on Monday and operations were suspended at Istanbul Airport after grounding to a halt as the 16 million residents of Turkey’s largest city entered a second day marred by travel chaos on Tuesday. 

GREECE: The ancient Acropolis in Athens (including the Parthenon, pictured) was covered in a thick layer of snow after a snap blizzard struck the country on Monday

TURKEY: Snow ploughs desperately try to clear snow after a blizzard swept through Istanbul Airport. The terminal remained suspended on Tuesday

TURKEY: Red Crescent members offer food and water to stranded motorists in Istanbul on Tuesday after heavy snowfall saw a second day of travel chaos across the country

GREECE: A fallen tree blocks a road in Athens after a rare blizzard caused more than 31ins of snow to fall in some areas of the eastern Mediterannean

GREECE: The ancient Herodes Atticus theatre is pictured with a thick blanket of snow on Tuesday morning after a winter storm in Athens

TURKEY: Thousands were left to endure sub-zero conditions in their vehicles overnight (pictured) and drivers were ordered to stay off the roads in Istanbul

TURKEY: Pedestrians were able to see the bright side of the surprise blizzard as they played in the snow in Istanbul on Monday evening

TURKEY: In an unprecedented move, Europe’s busiest airport in Istanbul (pictured) grounded all flights on Monday for the first time since it replaced the city’s old Ataturk Airport as the new hub for Turkish Airlines in 2019

TURKEY: Work to clean the runway and taxiways continues at Istanbul Airport where all flights were stopped overnight on Monday due to heavy snowfall

An Icelandic low-pressure system is said to be the cause of the snap cold front affecting much of the eastern Mediterranean this week, according to Istanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center.

The storm, named Elpida, is expected to last until at least Wednesday, potentially spelling further chaos after workers miraculously escaped injury when the roof of one of Istanbul’s cargo terminals collapsed under the weight of snow on Monday. 

In an unprecedented move, Europe’s busiest airport grounded all flights on Monday for the first time since it replaced Istanbul’s old Ataturk Airport as the new hub for Turkish Airlines in 2019. 

Temporary shuttle buses struggled against the conditions on Monday as airport workers desperately tried to push the vehicles out of their snowy shackles. 

Images taken on Istanbul’s roads on Monday also showed apocalyptic scenes, with cars completely submerged in snow and left stuck on once-bustling highways.

The city’s iconic ‘simit’ bagel shops stood empty for the second day running, while food delivery service apps were again unavailable on Tuesday.

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 home. ‘Please, let’s quickly remove our vehicles,’ governor Ali Yerlikaya pleaded on Twitter. 

The Greek authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday, shutting public offices and private businesses except supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations in the greater Athens area and on some islands.

More than 3,500 people had been evacuated by early Tuesday, some abandoning their cars on foot, but around 1,200 cars remained stuck on the Attiki Odos, the capital’s main ring-road, government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said.

‘We had a very difficult night and a superhuman evacuation effort is underway on Attiki Odos,’ Oikonomou told Greek television.

‘We are still in a very difficult phase, as the forecasts indicate that we will face (weather) difficulties again in a while,’ he said.

GREECE: Authorities declared Tuesday a public holiday, shutting public offices and private businesses except supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations in the greater Athens area and on some islands. Pictured: The city of Athens covered in snow

GREECE: Parts of the capital were also struck down by power cuts after the severe weather, with the national grid operator saying crews were working to restore electricity. Pictured: A snow plough clears a path in front of the Acropolis hill

TURKEY: Istanbul’s Ortakoy neighbourhood  is pictured with a light dusting of snow on Tuesday, January 25

Thousands were left to endure below-freezing conditions in their vehicles overnight in both Greece and Turkey as highways and roads were left largely inaccessible after being battered by the snowstorm. Pictured: A man carries essential supplies on the highway in Istanbul, Turkey

Rescue crews worked throughout the night and early on Tuesday morning to help clear a path on Istanbul’s roads

Istanbul’s governor’s office also urged residents who abandoned their cars on highways (pictured) because traffic had ground to a halt to return and take their vehicles home on Tuesday morning 

Heavy snow created hellish conditions for drivers in Istanbul, many of whom were forced to abandon their vehicles or face up to 12 hours in freezing conditions on Monday

Drivers were ordered to stay off the streets in Istanbul (pictured) after cars ploughed into one another due to the icy conditions on Monday

Turkish authorities pleaded with drivers to move their vehicles as Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu warned that heavy snowfall was likely to persist throughout Tuesday evening. Pictured: Stranded cars in Istanbul on Monday night

The snap blizzard prompted apocalyptic scenes at Istanbul airport, where airport staff were forced to desperately try and push a bus which became stuck in the snow

Parts of the Greek capital were also struck down by power cuts after the severe weather, with the national grid operator saying crews were working to restore electricity.

Fifteen passengers were injured when a rail transport vehicle tried to pull a train carrying about 200 passengers which had halted in heavy snow in central Greece. 

As temperatures plummeted overnight, soldiers were pictured distributing food, water and blankets to stranded drivers, some of whom were left in their cars for more than 10 hours. TV footage showed the road and vehicles covered in snow. 

Flurries are forecast to continue through Wednesday as Istanbul’s Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu warned that heavy snowfall was likely to persist throughout Tuesday evening.

Emergency rescue teams and other units worked overnight to clear snowy roads and highways but abandoned vehicles hampered their operations. 

A flight suspension in and out of Istanbul Airport on Monday was extended until 1pm Tuesday (10am GMT) over safety concerns, while the governor’s office banned the use of private cars until the same time. Istanbul’s second airport, Sabiha Gokcen, was operating limited services.

‘Nothing is moving. The snow ploughs can’t even reach us,’ Ahmet Odabasi, 40, one of thousands of travelers stranded overnight on a highway west of Istanbul told The Associated Press by telephone.

‘I have been stuck here for 12 hours now. I am lucky that I have gas, food and water,’ said the motorist, who was driving to Istanbul from the city of Edirne, near the border with Greece.

Sun-soaked groves of orange trees were met with a surprise blanket of snow outside the Academy of Athens, Greece on Tuesday

A man poses for a photograph in front of the snow-covered Acropolis hill in Athens on Tuesday

A group of people throw snowballs with the Parthenon temple in Athens seen in the background, during heavy snowfall caused by Storm Elpida on Monday

A snowman stands outside the snowy ancient Herodes Atticus theater, in Athens, Greece on Tuesday, after Storm Elpida ripped through the country for a second day 

A dog walker tries to return to some sense of normalcy on Tuesday morning after a blizzard caused the ancient Acropolis hill to be covered in a thick layer of snow on Tuesday

AKOM manager Selcuk Tutuncu told the AP that 40,000 tons of salt have been used since the beginning of the storm.

‘Right now there are over 1,500 vehicles and over 7,000 personnel working out in the field nonstop,’ Tutuncu said.

On Monday, authorities in Istanbul suspended intercity bus services and blocked travel to the city from Turkey’s northwestern Thrace region.

The Istanbul governor’s office announced that civil servants would be allowed to stay at home Tuesday, except for those employed in security, health and transportation sectors. Schools across Turkey were already closed for a winter break.

Imamoglu said the municipality has provided shelter to around 1,500 homeless people. Another 1,500 people stranded at a bus terminal due to the suspension of intercity services were taken to hotels or hostels.

Teams have left some two tons of food for stray cats and dogs, Imamoglu said.

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