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Passengers stranded at Istanbul Airport stage a protest

Due to an unusually heavy snowfall that hit Turkey Sunday night, January 23, main roads, inter-city transport, and flights have all been canceled. Although some of the airlines have resumed flights, thousands of passengers have been stranded at Istanbul Airport, prompting some to take measures into their hands.

Rare and amazing images. Istanbul's brand new international airport, one of Europe's main airports, is suspending all flights due to heavy snowfall.

It was not just the passengers who were stranded, but flight crews too.

On January 23, Istanbul Airport management assured its passengers that “operations continued uninterrupted.” That however changed and on January 24, the airport management tweeted that all flights were suspended until 4:00 am local time, January 25. And once again until 1:00 pm local time. According to Flightradar24, a global flight tracking service some 1,500 flights were canceled since the city's main airport was hit with a blizzard.

Bilal Ekşi, General Manager of Turkish Airlines (THY) announced via Twitter that “flights have gradually returned to normal” and that Turkish Airlines have planned 131 flights between 7 am and 1 pm on January 26. At the time of publication, some travelers are still stuck and waiting for their flights.

One satirical Twitter account joked the authorities were sending riot police to tear gas passengers referring to their typical heavy-handed approach to protests.

Another Twitter user shared pictures of snowman airport staff had made on the runway.

Some blamed the delays on the location where the new Istanbul airport was built. “The costly new airport was built on the Black Sea coast, with fierce northerly winds (107days/year), storms, and intense cloud cover(65days/yr) instead of the safer shores of the Marmara. You cannot fight topography & meteorology,” tweeted Yoruk Isik, the author of the website Bosphorus Observer.

Aviation experts opposed the location from the start of the project in 2016, arguing that the location lacked cover from the northerly winds and was susceptible to disruptions caused by cloud and fog.

“It was obvious from the planning stage that there would be problems with the landing and take-off of the planes. They stated that they were carrying out a meteorological study in the plan, but the stations where they received data were not close to the airport they were building to provide data. Therefore, they did not include in their determination that the north winds would affect the airport very seriously and that there would be problems in the landing and take-off of the planes,” told Bianet, Esin Koymen, the Head of the Istanbul Metropolitan Branch of the Chamber of Architects.

Koymen noted that although Atatürk Airport received the same amount of snowfall, it was still operational. “That was possible, because the location of that airport, considered the climate data provided at the time of its construction was done properly,” added Koymen. On their arrival to Istanbul, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoğlu, landed at the Atatürk Airport instead. Many took to Twitter to demand the Atatürk Airport be reopened to the public in no small part because the conveniently located airport has direct access to a subway.

Others criticized the lack of sufficient transportation infrastructure around the new airport. The only means of getting to the new site are through private cars, taxis, or a shuttle bus company. Journalist Ismayil Saymaz said in a tweet, “25,000 citizens were stranded at Istanbul Airport. Because the government closed the Atatürk Airport, which had metro access, and opened the incomplete Istanbul Airport to public use, to finish the ‘crazy project’ in time for the elections. We paid the bill for this incompetence yesterday and today.”

The Ministers of the Interior and Transportation arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday, January 25, and released a statement encouraging car owners to stay home and if necessary use public transportation instead at least until further notice. Universities sent students home until January 31 following the announcement by the İstanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya. The governor also said, that public servants, workers, and personnel, except for security, healthcare, and transportation workers, were sent on administrative leave, according to reporting by Bianet.

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