By Ruben Meloyan
Flights to and from Yerevan resumed on Monday afternoon more than 24 hours after Armenia’s main international airport was effectively shut down by heavy fog.
The resulting poor visibility in the capital and the adjacent Ararat Valley forced Zvartnots airport to cancel all Sunday and early Monday flights for safety considerations. The weather conditions were compounded by heavy snowfalls and freezing temperatures.
Officials said three Yerevan-bound planes had to land at Gyumri airport in northwestern Armenia overnight. Several other airliners made emergency landings in southern Russia, according to them.
“Nobody would take the risk to fly in such conditions,” said Marzpetuni Chomoyan, head of the airport’s meteorological service. “That is why the airport was closed.”
“The airport is open now,” he told RFE/RL. “Both the visibility and the minimum altitude of clouds are normal.”
But the situation still did not return to normal as of Monday evening as the airport administration and airlines struggled to organize delayed flights that left hundreds of passengers stranded at Zvartnots.
“They don’t give us any assurances, but we are waiting to see what happens,” complained one young woman who waited for hours to take her flight to Moscow.
Another, older woman was anxious to make the funeral one of her relatives in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. “We’ve been sitting here since last night,” she said angrily. “They still won’t tell us when we will finally fly.”
Meanwhile, meteorologists forecast renewed foggy conditions for the night from Monday to Tuesday. Chomoyan admitted that this will likely force more flight delays the next morning.
Air traffic to and from Armenia was similarly disrupted for about two weeks due to heavy fog in December 2005.