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Tourists with an umbrella walk in front of the 5th century BC Parthenon at the ancient Acropolis in central Athens. Alamy Stock Photo

Greece halts visits to Acropolis amid country's earliest heatwave on record

Some schools were closed in Greece as the Hellenic National Meteorological Service issued weather warnings.

THE ACROPOLIS IN Athens was closed to the public for a number of hours today as Greece grapples with its earliest ever heatwave, which prompted school closures and health warnings.

The UNESCO-listed archaeological site, which drew nearly four million visitors last year, closed from midday until 5pm this evening (10am-3pm Irish time) as temperatures reached 43 degrees in places. 

Weather warnings were issued by the Hellenic National Meteorological Service, with the highest temperatures forecast for central and southern Greece. This led to the closure of some schools, which will also remain closed tomorrow. 

Conditions worsened in an area north of the capital, after a fire at a cookware and food container factory sent clouds of thick black smoke into the sky.

Mobile phone alerts sent by a government disaster response agency urged residents in the area to remain indoors.

In Athens, city authorities announced that rubbish collections would also be halted for several hours and that seven air-conditioned spaces would be opened to the public.

Drones with thermal cameras were being used in Athens to co-ordinate the public health response, officials said.

Greece’s Red Cross said it had handed out some 12,000 bottles of water in the centre of the capital and at the Acropolis.

Meteorologists have noted this is the earliest heatwave in recorded history. In Greece, temperatures exceeding 38 degrees for at least three days is classed as a heatwave. 

“This heatwave will go down in history,” meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos said on state TV ERT.

“In the 20th century we never had a heatwave before 19 June. We have had several in the 21st century, but none before 15 June,” he said.

a-tourist-is-carried-by-first-aid-personnel-from-ancient-acropolis-site-in-central-athens-wednesday-june-12-2024-the-ancient-acropolis-site-was-closed-to-the-public-for-five-hours-due-to-a-heat-w A tourist is carried by First Aid personnel from ancient Acropolis site, in central Athens. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The climate crisis and civil protection ministry has warned of a very high risk of fires in the Attica region around Athens.

Sheltering under a parasol, electrician Fotis Pappous said he had started his workday a few hours earlier, at 6am, on orders from his employer.

“With this kind of heat, it would be too risky otherwise,” said the 46-year-old as he tinkered with an electricity meter near Athens’s central Syntagma Square.

But for staff working over the grill in Greece’s already-buzzing tourist Plaka district, there was no room for respite.

“We have no choice, it’s the start of the tourist season,” said kebab store owner Elisavet Robou.

“We have air-conditioning and fans, and staff are allowed to take breaks, but unfortunately the climate crisis is here.

“Heatwaves came earlier this year and the season will be difficult,” she said.

The Acropolis was forced to close in July last year during a two-week heatwave that was unprecedented in its duration.

It was followed by fires which according consumed nearly 175,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

With reporting from AFP 2024 and Press Association.

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