Heatwave strikes Greece as country faces high risk from fires

The new heat wave that has hit Greece in the last 24 hours was at its peak on Saturday, as temperature reached even 42 degrees Celsius at some parts of the country.

According to the latest forecasts of the meteorological service (Meteo) of the National Observatory of Athens (NSA), the thermometer hit a high of 41-42 degrees Celsius in Thessaly, 40-41 degrees in the northern parts of the eastern Central Greece, and 37-39 degrees in eastern Peloponnese and Attica.

“Atmospheric conditions favor the transfer of hot air from Africa to our region, resulting in very high temperatures,” the Meteo service forecast in a press statement issued on Thursday.

Extremely high temperatures, combined with humidity levels, increased the discomfort, making the feeling of heat even more intense for the citizens of Athens and tourists.

“We are just trying to get by. There is no real strategy to deal with the heat. We were just in Rome actually, because we are making a cruise so the heat is not surprising at all,” Alice from Kansas told Xinhua.

The Medical Association of Athens also issued a warning, calling the citizens to avoid the sun, dress in light-colored, cotton clothes, as well as eat small meals and avoid alcohol consumption.

Greek Minister of Interior Panagiotis Theodorikakos urged elected officials to take all the necessary measures and open the air-conditioned halls of municipalities to protect citizens and especially vulnerable groups from the heat.

In his letter to all the mayors of the country, the regional governor of Attica George Patoulis called all municipal services to be on guard 24 hours a day.

The heat is expected to retreat on Sunday, starting from the northern parts of the country and moving southward.

The extreme conditions created a high risk for the outbreak and spread of fires, warned the Meteo service.

A wildfire was burning through a forest area at Louvros, a municipality of Ancient Olympia, the fire brigade reported on early Saturday afternoon.

Some 25 firefighters with 12 vehicles, assisted by two aircrafts and one helicopter, were trying to contain the fire.

“Winds in the area are making the extinguishing of the fire even harder, but the fire poses no threat to local homes” regional Vice-Governor of Ilia Giorgos Georgiopoulos told Greek national news agency AMNA.

Earlier, three fires that had been contained, occurred almost simultaneously in the Aspropyrgos suburb of Athens.

In the meantime, thousands of citizens started to leave the Greek capital for their annual August holidays this weekend. The mass exodus is expected to culminate in the next days, ahead of the traditional mid-August exodus.

By Friday afternoon, 30,353 passengers had departed from Piraeus port with 5,154 vehicles on 26 ferry routes, 8,015 passengers departed from Rafina port with 1,617 vehicles on 14 routes and 1,802 passengers left from Lavrio port with 507 vehicles in five routes.

The Athenians who did not leave the capital, flocked to the nearby beaches.