Heavy snowstorm causes travel chaos in Istanbul

A man holds a shovel as he tries to clear a street during heavy snowfall in the European side of Istanbul on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man holds a shovel as he tries to clear a street during heavy snowfall in the European side of Istanbul on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man walks on the Galata bridge under heavy snow in the European side of Istanbul on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A man walks on the Galata bridge under heavy snow in the European side of Istanbul on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman with an umbrella pounded by the wind as she walks near Bosphorus during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A woman with an umbrella pounded by the wind as she walks near Bosphorus during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
People walk during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
People walk during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
People wait at Ataturk Airport during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
People wait at Ataturk Airport during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Planes stand on a parking area at Ataturk Airport during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. A heavy fall of snow on Wednesday caused travel chaos in Istanbul, forcing the temporary closure of Turkey's main airport and causing hundreds o
Planes stand on a parking area at Ataturk Airport during a snowy day in Istanbul, Turkey on Feb 18, 2015. A heavy fall of snow on Wednesday caused travel chaos in Istanbul, forcing the temporary closure of Turkey's main airport and causing hundreds of traffic accidents. -- PHOTO: EPA

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A heavy fall of snow on Wednesday caused travel chaos in Istanbul, forcing the temporary closure of Turkey's main airport and causing hundreds of traffic accidents.

Istanbulites woke up to find the famed minarets and domes of the historic city's skyline layered in snow after a heavy fall overnight that has still shown no sign of abating.

National carrier Turkish Airlines was forced to delay or cancel hundreds of flights from Ataturk International Airport, the country's main hub, as well as from Sabiha Gokcen airport on the Asian side of the city.

The authorities shut down Ataturk airport for over two hours due to poor visibility and to clear the runway of snow and ice. But the airport has now reopened, albeit with heavy delays.

Earlier, a Turkish Airlines flight from Beirut skidded off the runway due to ice but none of the passengers were hurt, Turkish media reports said.

The weather also affected Super Lig Turkish football side Besiktas who were stuck Istanbul waiting for the weather to clear for a charter flight to Liverpool for their crunch Europa League clash on Merseyside on Thursday.

The snowstorm also closed the shipping channel through the Bosphorus Strait, one of the busiest in the world and forced the cancellation of most inter-city ferry services.

The Istanbul municipality said there had been over 840 traffic accidents on Tuesday alone due to the snowstorm and on Wednesday ordered that only vehicles with snow chains could take to the streets.