Greek heatwave fuels wildfires, limits Acropolis visits

Michael Varaklas and Derek Gatopoulos
Associated Press

Tatoi, Greece – Authorities closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours as Greece grappled on Tuesday with the worst heatwave in decades.

The extreme heat has strained the national power supply and fueled wildfires near Athens and elsewhere in southern Greece, and Greek authorities have described the heat wave as the most intense since 1987.

People walk under the ancient Acropolis, in Athens Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. Authorities in Greece have closed the Acropolis and other ancient sites during afternoon hours as a heatwave scorching the eastern Mediterranean continued to worsen.

As the heat wave scorching the eastern Mediterranean intensified, temperatures reached 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in parts of the Greek capital. The extreme weather has fueled deadly wildfires in Turkey and blazes in Greece, Albania, Italy and across the region.

A wildfire north of Athens sent smoke over the capital and prompted precautionary evacuations at a children’s summer camp and in a small populated area. Wildfire evacuations were also ordered along a coastal area in the southern Peloponnese region.

Tourists sit in the shade outside the ancient Acropolis, in Athens Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

Many residents near the Tatoi area, 20 kilometers (12.5 kilometers) north of Athens, left their homes in cars and on motorcycles and headed toward the capital as smoke blanketed residential areas.

“It is a large fire and it will take a lot of work to get this under control,” greater Athens regional governor George Patoulis told state-run ERT television.

“People in the area should be on stand-by. We are asking members of the public in the fire-affected areas to keep the windows of their homes closed because the smoke is very dense.”

Evzones of the Greek Presidential Guard in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021.

At least four water-dropping planes were involved in the firefighting effort near Athens, including a Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft leased from Russia. The blaze damaged electricity pylons, adding further strain on the electricity network already under pressure due to widespread use of air-conditioning.

The Acropolis, which is normally open in the summer from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., will have reduced hours through Friday, closing between midday and 5 p.m.

The Greek Fire Service maintained an alert for most of the country Tuesday and Wednesday, while public and some private services shifted operating hours to allow for afternoon closures.