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Too Hot to Work or Travel in Greece, Sparks Wildfires Warning

Αssociated Press

A man floats in the sea during a heatwave, in Alimos suburb, southern Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

ATHENS – With temperatures in some parts of Greece expected to hit as high as 117 degrees during a dangerous heatwave, the government issued an advisory against unnecessary work or travel – during the height of the tourism season.

It was so hot that besides the public being allowed to – for three days only - use three public beaches in Athens leased to private companies who charge for their use, that the ancient Acropolis was closed for a time.

The National Meteorological Service said there was a high risk of more wildfires after a conflagration threatened villages near the country's third-largest city of Patras on the west coast along the Ionian Sea.

"We are constantly recording maximum record temperatures all these years, which means that climate change is here," said Stavros Solomos, researcher at the Centre for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology of the Academy of Athens, told Reuters.

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"We are expecting to have more frequent, more intense heatwaves," he said, as well as "tropical nights" - where temperatures do not fall below 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, which is 77-86 Fahrenheit.

The Acropolis, which looks out over the capital, closed for a few hours as it does when temperatures rise, to protect tourists from the heat, the news agency said, adding that the heatwave could last at least 10 days.

Citizens' Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis warned of "extremely high temperatures" and urged people "to show the highest degree of responsibility and cooperation".

Αssociated Press

People swim during a heatwave at a beach, in Alimos suburb, southern Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

He added: "I also want to appeal to our fellow citizens to avoid unnecessary travel in the heat but also unnecessary work,” but there were no reports that public sector workers would be allowed to stay home for a time.

The New Democracy government said it would make air conditioned areas available for those without them although COVID-19 pandemic health restrictions mean people can't gather in places such as auditoriums.

Earlier this month, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyiannis appointed a chief heat officer, the first in Europe, to help tackle extreme heat even as climate change deniers insist it's a hoax.

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"Welcome to global warming! It's very hot, it's very oppressive," George Papabeis, a Greek-American tourist, told Reuters as he made his way through central Athens that was sweltering.

Even beaches offered little relief because it's too hot to sit there even under an umbrella and most public beaches are privately-operated with some people unable to afford the charges for going there to cool off.

"I think it will be like hell. I'm not happy about it," said May Ben Atia, a tourist from Israel. "It becomes so hot you can actually feel it in your skin," she said.

This heatwave is considered on a part with that in 1987 that reportedly killed more than 1,000 people in a time when air conditioning was not widely in use, with no reports of deaths this time.

Firefighters were dealing with more than 40 blazes that broke out in a 24-hour period, fanned by winds and high temperatures, including one north of the capital that burned at least a dozen homes before finally being brought under control.

Read also: EMY: Greece's Heatwave the "Most Intense" of the Last 40 Years