Heatwave: Greece on “full alert”, Acropolis closed again

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday called for “absolute vigilance” in the wake of a new episode of a heat wave that is hitting his country and is expected to hit temperatures of between 44°C and 45°C this weekend.

Facing this new heat wave, all of the country’s archaeological sites, including Athens’ Acropolis, will be closed during the hottest hours of the day until Sunday, according to the culture ministry.

The head of government warned, “We need full vigilance (…) because the difficult times have not yet passed.”

He underlined “we are facing a new heat wave” and a “potential strengthening of winds” that have already fueled several violent fires around Athens since Monday.

Like other archaeological sites, Athens’ Acropolis, the most visited monument in the country, will be closed on Thursday at noon and until 5:30 pm (09:00 am to 3:30 pm GMT), a measure that will remain in place until Sunday.

Due to a previously announced work stoppage by the Guardians of the Acropolis, it will be closed from Thursday to Sunday until its normal closing time of 8:00 pm local time (17:00 GMT).

The Red Cross once again deployed to distribute thousands of bottles of water to visitors at the foot of the Sacred Rock, as the thermometer showed 38 degrees Celsius in Athens on Thursday afternoon.

Greece is expected to see a maximum temperature of 43 degrees Celsius on Thursday and is expected to rise further in the coming days, with the center of the country expected to see 44 to 45 degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday.

In Greece’s capital, the absolute temperature record of 44.8 °C was set in June 2007, according to the National Observatory of Athens, while the absolute record in Greece was reached in July 1977 with 48 °C in Elefsina, near Athens.

“What worries us is that forecasts indicate a further rise in temperatures next week. Then there will be a heat wave lasting more than fifteen days, the longest ever recorded in Greece,” Kostas Lagovardos, research director at the Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development at the National Observatory of Athens, told AFP.

In the center of Athens, the population tried to continue with their activities despite the extreme heat in the middle of the day.

Christos Boyatzis polishes the shoes of businessmen in the charming Kolonaki district.

He admits, “I am used to high temperatures. Every summer we have it, but what is difficult this year is that the heat waves are following each other.”

Kostas Leventoris, a newspaper vendor, would close his newsstand an hour earlier “due to the heat”.

On rue Panepistimiu, where his shop is located, work has ground to a halt. “But yesterday again the poor laborers were in the hot sun. I am not complaining much about my working conditions. I, at least I am in the shade”, said the forties’ note.

The situation improved on Thursday on the raging wildfire front.

However, hundreds of firefighters are still fighting an active blaze west of Athens that has already burned thousands of hectares. On Thursday afternoon, fires flared up again in the Dervenochoria area, northwest of Athens, where authorities evacuated four villages.

“Firefighters had to deal with 200 fires over three days in extreme weather conditions,” Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias told Sky radio channel.

According to Civil Protection, the area around the Greek capital Attica as well as the Peloponnese peninsula (south-west) and central Greece remain at high risk of fire.

“The next few days will be very difficult,” warned fire department spokesman Yanis Artopios on Thursday.

Five planes and five helicopters were still working Thursday to fight the flames on the tourist island of Rhodes, where a wildfire broke out two days ago.

To the southeast of Athens, 3,472 hectares of land have burned in recent days, according to the European Observatory Copernicus.

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