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Greece Braces for Worst Heatwave in Years; Emergency Measures Announced

Greece Heatwave
Greece is getting ready for another brutal heatwave. Credit: Aasif Iqbal J – Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Greece is preparing for one of the worst heatwaves in the country’s recent history, and the country’s authorities are ramping up their efforts to address potential disruptions.

An emergency meeting was held on Friday in the headquarters of the Civil Protection Secretariat in Athens.

The minister of Citizens’ Protection Michael Chrysochoidis, along with the Alternate Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Chardalias, chaired the meeting with high-ranking officials.

”All together, the state, local governments, private sector, and citizens will work together to prevent unpleasant situations,” Chrysochoides told reporters following the meeting in Athens.

Greece Announces Emergency Measures for Heatwave

The Minister announced four steps that the government is going to take to prevent the worst.

Firstly, authorities now advise everyone in Greece ”to avoid every single activity that could cause a fire.” For this reason, in addition to the Fire Service, the government orders the Hellenic Police to assist in fire protection. Police officers will now conduct patrols to locate any outbreaks of fire so that the Fire Service would be able to rush to the scene much faster and control them more quickly.

Secondly, the minister urged the citizens to make ”targeted use of water and electricity,” so that the country does not experience water or power outages. Additionally, the National Health Service (ESY) has been put on high alert to address any inflow of people with heat-related diseases, such as heat exhaustion or heatstrokes.

Thirdly, further announcements will follow in regard to the facilitation of vulnerable groups. Traditionally in Greece, public and even private venues with air conditioning remain open 24 hours a day during heatwaves to welcome homeless or other vulnerable people who don’t have the means to cool themselves down.

Lastly, both private and public sector employees will have to be protected by the extreme weather conditions, with every employer having to make sure that they remain safe.

Additionally, the Civil Protection of the country is now urging all people in Greece to avoid all unnecessary travel.

Earlier on Thursday, the leader of the opposition, Alexis Tsipras, had urged the government to declare Monday, August 2 a national bank holiday so that people could stay at home and avoid being exposed to the dangerously high temperatures.

However, the government has not responded to this request yet.

Temperatures well above 40 degrees Celcius expected

This is not the first brutal heatwave the country has faced this summer; however, forecasts show that temperatures are supposed to skyrocket again to 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) in some parts Greece, reminding many of the deadly 1987 heatwave.

Earlier this week, the National Meteorological Service of Greece EMY issued an urgent announcement to bring awareness to the dangers associated with the soaring temperatures Greece will face in the coming days.

From Tuesday onward, temperatures have been taking a gradual upward turn that won’t stop at least until next Tuesday.

This is due to the hot air masses which are traveling from north Africa to the countries of Italy and Greece and send thermometers skyrocketing in both nations.

This heatwave will be at its absolute worst beginning today, Friday, July 30, to Tuesday, August 3.

Meteorologist Klearchos Marousakis, interviewed on the Greek television channel OPEN, earlier this week said that the heatwave will be one of the worst Greece has ever seen.

“According to current data, this heatwave, at least in terms of its duration, will be reminiscent of the great heat wave of 1987,” Marousakis said.

However, he was quick to remind viewers of the significant strides that Greece and the world has made since 1987 which means that temperatures of this magnitude are no longer likely to have such tragic outcomes.

Greeks remember 1987 heatwave that killed 1,300

July 20, 1987 marked the beginning of the deadliest heatwave in modern Greek history which left 1,300 dead people in its wake.

The heatwave was of unprecedented duration, since the whole of Greece’s mainland was burning up for seven to eight days, with city temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. The continuous windless days, along with the high humidity, created a lethal combination.

According to newspapers at the time, temperatures did not fall below 30 degrees Celsius — even at night — during that meteorological event. Air conditioners and air coolers were also not widely used in 1987, leaving millions of Greeks at the mercy of the cruel phenomenon.

The majority of the victims were elderly people. Official figures spoke of 1,300 dead, with unofficial estimates rising to 1,500 victims. The greatest amount of casualties were recorded in the Attica region, amounting to 1,115 dead.

The press at the time painted a rather harrowing picture with screaming headlines of “Infernos” and “God Help Us.” Reporters wrote about overflowing hospital morgues and the transferring of dead bodies to Army camp morgues, while funeral homes did not have enough time to prepare the dead for burial.

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