Heat Emergency Brings Record Temperature and Fires to Southern Europe
ATHENS – Greece was grappling with one of its hottest weeks on Tuesday as an intense heat wave swept across much of southern Europe and fueled massive forest fires.
The meteorological service of the National Observatory of Athens on Monday recorded the highest temperature officially recorded in the country – 46.3 degrees Celsius, or 115.3 degrees Fahrenheit – in the central region of Greece, Phthiotis.
Temperatures are expected to climb to 113 degrees Fahrenheit in Athens on Tuesday and reach 115 degrees in parts of central Greece, according to the country’s National Weather Service.
“We are facing the worst heat wave since 1987,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday, stressing that the authorities were doing “everything humanly possible” to ensure an adequate supply of electricity. He called on people to limit their electricity use in the early afternoon and at night to make sure the grid is resilient.
While scientists have yet to establish a strong link between this barrage of sweltering temperatures and global warming, it fits a general trend. Heat waves around the world occur more often and with greater intensity as the climate changes due to greenhouse gas emissions.
Research has shown that for large heat waves across Europe in recent summers, climate change has been a significant aggravating factor.
The Greek meteorological service said the current heat wave was one of the worst in 40 years. It should end on Friday after 11 days.
More than 1,000 people have died in a 10-day heat wave that hit Greece in 1987 and saw temperatures soar to over 111 degrees Fahrenheit in the capital Athens. The highest temperature on record for Athens was 112.6 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded in 2007, according to the observatory, which has records dating back more than 160 years.
This week, authorities called on vulnerable members of the public, especially the elderly and pregnant women, to avoid leaving their homes. The government has also opened cooling centers for the homeless.
The Culture Ministry said all archaeological sites will remain closed from noon to 5 p.m. until Friday. Museums remained open, however, and footage of long lines of people waiting outside the capital’s Acropolis Museum was shown on Greek TV.
There were similar lines in the port of Piraeus, where passengers waited for ferries to the islands, lowering their face masks to drink from water bottles or use hand-held ventilators.
Extreme weather conditions
Athens’ central Syntagma Square, usually bustling with crowds, was relatively quiet on Tuesday as tourists huddled in the shade of the trees or dipped their hands in the water fountain to cool off.
The heat wave and accompanying drought fueled several forest fires in Greece and other parts of southern Europe, including Croatia, Italy and Turkey.
Greek firefighters were fighting a new forest fire on Tuesday that broke out in the early afternoon at the foot of Mount Parnitha, north of Athens. A village and a children’s camp were evacuated and a section of the nearby highway was closed to traffic.
The worst fires this week were in Turkey, where firefighters were battling a sixth day of forest fires along the country’s southern coast that forced tens of thousands from their homes. The fires encroached on residential areas and threatened a power plant.
At least eight people have died and houses and large areas of forest have been destroyed. Strong winds and a dry atmosphere allowed the fires to spread rapidly.
“It’s hard to breathe, the weather is so hot,” Turkish TV reporter Gulcin Hacievliyagil Ayce told Haber Turk TV on Tuesday during a report in the city of Marmaris.
In a video posted on the Twitter account of the city’s mayor, Mehmet Oktay, he stood in front of a hill of charred trees and pleaded for more firefighting air support. “Although we have been asking for more air support from the start, today there is only one helicopter, no planes,” he said.
Flames and plumes of gray smoke rose behind white villas in the town of Milas in televised footage on Tuesday, and officials warned of the risk of the flames reaching a nearby power plant. “We are at a critical point,” Muhammet Tokat, the city’s mayor, said in a message. on Twitter overnight.
The fires in Turkey led to the evacuation of thousands of people from resorts and villages, and the European Union sent water jets to help fight the fires.
Turkey’s central government has been widely denounced for its response to the disaster, including leasing planes from Russia. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the country’s own planes are unable to stop the fires.
Sukru Durmus, the head of the agricultural and forestry workers union, said the extreme weather conditions set the stage for the wildfires, but the Turkish government’s misconduct and lack of precautionary measures made the situation worse. .
In Greece, the largest fires occurred in the south of the Peloponnese peninsula and on the island of Rhodes in the south of the Aegean Sea, off the Turkish coast. Authorities declared a state of emergency in parts of Rhodes on Monday after a fire that broke out on Sunday destroyed hundreds of hectares of forests and caused villages to be evacuated from a military base. and a popular nature reserve.
The Greek fire service said dozens of fires were reported daily, and officials noted that there were 1,584 in July, up from 953 in July 2019.
“We are no longer talking about climate change, but about a climate threat,” Nikos Hardalias, the country’s deputy minister of civil protection, told Greek television on Sunday.
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