Extreme heat in Greece: threat to tourists’ lives

Ekstremalne upały w Grecji

The calendar summer has not yet begun in earnest, and the heat in Greece is already reaching record levels. Schools were closed in Athens last week due to the heat, and the death toll is growing by the day. The country’s authorities warn tourists against hasty excursions and prepare for the expected wave of fires. What can you expect from this year’s vacation in the Balkans?

June heat in Greece

As early as June 12, the Peloponnese Peninsula has remained in the zone of a high that has brought with it up to 40-degree heat. Last Wednesday, as many as 228 weather stations in the center and south of the country recorded temperatures above 37°C. The record was set in the town of Lefkohori Fthiotida, where thermometers indicated 43.2°C. The next day, temperatures reached 44.5°Cat Voukolies in Chania, and seven other stations measured above 43°C.

Over the weekend, the heat in Greece eased only minimally – according to the National Observatory in Athens, it is uninterruptedly above 35°C in the hottest parts of the country. The Interior Ministry has ensured that sensitive public service groups can work remotely and has issued a recommendation to limit outdoor work from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Special air-conditioned assistance centers for the elderly have also been opened in Athens, and access to the Acropolis and other archaeological attractions has been restricted.

Tourists die of heat

Unfortunately, this year’s hot weather in Greece is already taking a deadly toll among tourists who came to the Mediterranean to enjoy the sunny weather, but overestimated their physical capabilities. On Sunday, June 16, authorities reported that the body of a 55-year-old American man, who had been sought since Thursday, had been found on a beach near Mathraki Harbor. A day earlier, the corpse of a 74-year-old Dutchman who had been wanted for a week was identified on the island of Samos.

The hot weather in Greece has also been linked to the deaths of three tourists in the first week of June. In Crete, a 67-year-old man from the Netherlands became weak and died of a heart attack. The exact same situation befell a 70-year-old French woman a day later. Meanwhile, the body of a 67-year-old TV presenter from the UK was found on the island of Symi. Also on June 13, an 80-year-old Belgian man died in Crete. The search continues for two French women on the island of Sikinos and an Israeli couple who went missing near the village of Vytina in Arcadia. The 59-year-old American, who was last seen on Amorgos Island a week ago, is also believed to be missing.

Greek police stress that the heat is particularly dangerous for the elderly, who are not used to local conditions. Hikers should therefore exercise extreme caution – with such high temperatures, even a short walk can end in disorientation and fainting.

Growing threat of fires

The Hellenic National Meteorological Institute, meanwhile, predicts more hot weather in Greece. Already on Thursday, temperatures in several parts of the Peloponnese are forecast to reach 40°C, and the weekend could be even hotter.

On Monday, Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Defense published a fire danger map showing that the risk of fire ignition will reach a very high fourth level in the Attica and Evia regions in the central part of the country. All firefighting units are on standby, plus there are plans to ban access to forests and parks. It is also forbidden to burn bonfires, conduct work that requires starting a fire, or even hold a barbecue.

In addition, from today through Sunday, the heightened fire danger will cover the entire country. Land and air guard units are to monitor risk areas to intervene as early as possible in the event of a fire. Nearly 200 fires were extinguished last week thanks to the quick responses of firefighters.

Last Thursday, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis warned Greeks about the next few months: all scientific evidence indicates that this summer will be extremely difficult, he confessed at a press conference. He also reported that a bill has been submitted to Parliament to provide for additional inspections of the technical condition of cars due to the threat. Many municipalities are also planning to prepare fire lanes.

In July and August, hot weather in Greece is normal. Last year, however, the Gytheio weather station in the Peloponnese recorded an absolute historical record of 46.4°C. Does June’s heat wave herald another record this summer?


Photo. main: Francesca Noemi Marconi/Unsplash

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