Firefighters from Romania try to stop the fire at the village of Agia Sotira near Athens yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo

Firefighters across Europe rush to Greece as gruelling Mediterranean heatwave takes toll

New evacuations were ordered today as wildfires raged near the Greek capital.

FIRE PLANES AND ground crews from several European countries are heading to Greece where wildfires have intensified as relentless heatwave conditions are keeping much of southern Europe above 40C.

Three firefighting teams from Poland, Romania and Slovakia are due in Greece tomorrow, while Israel had pledged two firefighting aircraft, adding to the four planes from Italy and France already operating outside Athens.

New evacuations were ordered today as wildfires raged near the Greek capital.

thanassis-barberakis-walks-with-his-dog-at-his-family-shipyard-damaged-from-the-fire-in-mandra-west-of-athens-on-tuesday-july-18-2023-in-greece-where-a-second-heatwave-is-expected-to-hit-thursday Thanassis Barberakis walks with his dog at his family shipyard damaged from the fire in Mandra west of Athens yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

A second heatwave hit the Mediterranean country from the west following days of record-high temperatures that baked southern Europe.

In a round-the-clock battle to preserve forests, industrial facilities and holiday homes, evacuations continued for a third day along a motorway connecting Athens to the southern city of Corinth.

Temperatures in southern Greece are expected to reach 44C by the end of the week, in the second heatwave to hit Europe’s Mediterranean south in two weeks.

‘Difficult to sweat’

Alessandro Miani, who heads the Italian Society of Environmental Doctors, warned that ageing populations in Italy and other southern European countries were a concern during heatwaves, noting that deaths due to high temperatures most commonly affected people aged over 80.

“The excessive heat, together with humidity, can make it difficult for sweat to evaporate, interfering with the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature,” Miani said.

The heat in Rome eased only slightly today after a sweltering 42C to 43C yesterday, while highs in Sicily and Sardinia reached 46C.

rome-italy-12-july-2023-a-priest-wipes-the-sweat-from-his-face-as-rome-experiences-high-temperatures-the-italian-health-ministry-has-issued-a-red-alert-heatwave-warning-for-eight-major-cities-in A priest wipes the sweat from his face as Rome experiences high temperatures. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Parts of Spain were as high as 45C today.

Amador Cortes, a resident in the southern Spanish city of Jaen, said people were doing their best to avoid the sun during midday hours and the early afternoon.

“The truth is, they take shelter at home with the air conditioning, with the fan. In the street, the elderly suffer a lot. Anyway, we have to put up with it,” he said.

The latest heatwave prompted renewed concern over the impact of extreme summer heat.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), a United Nations body, said preliminary global figures showed the month of June had been the hottest on record.

“The extreme weather, an increasingly frequent occurrence in our warming climate, is having a major impact on human health, ecosystems, economies, agriculture, energy and water supplies,” WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas said today.

“This underlines the increasing urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as possible.”

Countries with borders on the Mediterranean Sea were not alone in suffering. Authorities in North Macedonia extended a heat alert with predicted temperatures topping 43C, while Kosovo also issued heat warnings.

Powerful storms that followed a string of extremely hot days caused chaos in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia late yesterday, toppling trees, tearing roofs off buildings and causing power cuts.

Emergency services in the three countries reported hundreds of interventions as the storm swept through the region. It also brought much-sought relief from the heat.

The firefighters were being sent to Greece as part of a European Union civil protection mechanism that includes the planned deployment of international crews to parts of southern Europe over the summer.

Press Association
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