ISTANBUL • Hailstones the size of golf balls and heavy rain battered Istanbul in a freak storm that flooded roads, felled trees and brought air traffic and rush-hour transport to a standstill in Turkey's biggest city.
At least 10 people were hurt, two of them seriously, when the violent thunderstorm struck on Thursday, local media said.
The storm, which lasted only 20 minutes, paralysed traffic and caused flash floods that submerged cars in some streets, according to pictures on social media.
Footage from broadcaster Haberturk showed a city bus half-submerged near a bridge in the city's Unkapani district. Some passengers left the bus and waded through the flooded road while others climbed on to the roof of the bus.
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Other footage showed waves of hail and rain cascading down the stairs of the Taksim metro station.
Two people were injured when the wall of an old cemetery collapsed near a busy street, the Daily Sabah said.
A large crane toppled at Haydarpasa port, near the southern entrance to the Bosphorus, causing an explosion and a fire that was later brought under control, it said.
7,000 Number of people mobilised to deal with the aftermath of the storm, according to the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
230 Estimated number of trees uprooted.
90 Number of roofs collapsed.
The authorities also shut down the Eurasia Tunnel which connects Istanbul's Asian and European sides under the Bosphorus strait, as a precaution. The city's main tram service between the Bagcilar suburb and Kabatas, on the banks of the Bosphorus, was also suspended.
Flights from the city's Ataturk airport, a major regional hub, were suspended. At least 16 planes which had been heading to Ataturk airport were routed to other destinations, the pro-government Anadolu news agency reported.
One of them, a Turkish Airlines jet, was forced to make an emergency landing in the Aegean city of Canakkale after powerful winds, rain and hail appeared to have worn away the paint on the jet's nose, with cracks visible on the pilot's window, the Daily Mail reported.
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality said more than 7,000 people had been mobilised to deal with the aftermath of the storm.
Around 230 trees were uprooted, nearly 90 roofs collapsed and a number of fires broke out but were quickly extinguished, it said, adding that further storms were possible in the night.
The incident came just nine days after Istanbul was pounded by heavy rains and winds of up to 80kph, flooding streets and metro stations and disrupting tram lines, but without causing casualties.
The municipality said an average 65mm of rain fell on July 18.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE