HUFFINGTON POST

Tourists, Foreign Nationals Caught In The Middle Of Turkey's Coup

Turkey's international airport is open, but many are stuck due to flight cancelations.
A passenger walks as army tanks enter the Ataturk Airport on July 16, 2016, in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges acro
A passenger walks as army tanks enter the Ataturk Airport on July 16, 2016, in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges across the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European and Asian sides of the city, were closed to traffic.

As the dust began to settle on Saturday after an attempted coup in Turkey, tourists scrambled to find loved ones and flights into and out of the country. The chaos was expected to stretch through the weekend.

Turkish Airlines resumed service after Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, closed overnight Friday, reopened on Saturday afternoon. But some customers were told their flights were still axed, and many found themselves stuck as foreign carriers announced sweeping cancelations.

Hosam Arab, 36, was on vacation in Gocek from Dubai when clashes between the military and civilians on Friday left at least 265 people dead and more than 1,400 injured. He lost Facebook and Twitter access almost immediately after he heard of the coup, he said ― social media was reportedly restricted on Friday ― and was still sitting at the airport Saturday waiting to go home.

“As of now we have very little updates on tomorrow’s flights,” he told The Huffington Post. “All I know is that most of today’s flights throughout Istanbul have been canceled despite reports saying that flights have resumed. We’re on Turkish Airlines which was supposedly the least impacted ― that does not seem to be the case.”

British Airways announced that it was canceling all flights to and from Turkey on Saturday, with more cancelations expected through Sunday. More than 2.5 million British nationals visit Turkey every year, Reuters reports.

The changes may affect tourist Jess Kimberley, 19, of Leicester, England, who doesn’t know yet whether her flight home on Monday will be delayed. But she’s just happy she’s safe.

“All the locals [in Bodrum] were saying that it’s happened before and as long as you don’t go outside during a curfew you’re okay ― they arrest or shoot anyone that’s outside,” Kimberley told HuffPost. “We were really shocked this morning when we found out. The area was really quiet, but as soon as the curfew was lifted people started going out and getting on with their normal lives. As soon as I saw that I started to relax.”

Meanwhile, U.S. airline regulators banned all flights to and from Ankara and Istanbul, and the U.S. Embassy in Ankara issued a statement telling Americans to take shelter, according to The Associated Press. 

EgyptAir and German airline Lufthansa canceled all flights to Istanbul on Saturday. Turkish and British budget carriers Pegasus and EasyJet resumed flights on Saturday but delays were expected.

Travelers said the tension was palpable in and around the airport on Saturday. The struggle to get out of the country was all too familiar. The coup comes just weeks after a massacre at Ataturk Airport left 45 people dead and hundreds more wounded.

Ataturk, Turkey’s largest airport, is the main international airport serving Istanbul. It’s Europe’s third-largest hub, and its closure on Friday caused the immediate rerouting or cancelation of 67 flights.

People gather near the Turkish army's tank near Ataturk Airport on July 16, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.
People gather near the Turkish army's tank near Ataturk Airport on July 16, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The airport was the scene of a pivotal moment during the coup’s attempt, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan emerged from the terminal on Saturday morning to give a speech vowing that the coup would be defeated.

“They have pointed the people’s guns against the people,” he said. “The president, whom 52 percent of the people brought to power, is in charge. This government brought to power by the people, is in charge. They won’t succeed as long as we stand against them by risking everything.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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