Athens Acropolis closes as Greece bakes in earliest-ever heatwave

ATHENS   -    The Athens Acropolis, Greece’s most visited tourist site, was closed to the public during the hottest hours of Wednesday as the season’s earliest-ever heatwave swept the country, prompting school closures and health warnings. The culture ministry had said the UNESCO- listed archaeological site would close from midday to 5:00 pm (0900 to 1400 GMT), with temperatures expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday and Thursday. The first heatwave of the year in Greece, regularly hit by searing summer temperatures, is due to peak over those two days, and the ministry said the measure could be extended. Meteorologists have noted this is the earliest heatwave -- which for Greece is temperatures exceeding 38 degrees Celsius for at least three days -- in recorded history. “In the 20th century we never had a heatwave before June 19. We have had several in the 21st century, but none before June 15,” said state TV meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos. The climate crisis and civil protection ministry has warned of a very high risk of fires in the Attica region around Athens. Schools will stay closed in several regions of the country on Wednesday and Thursday, including in the capital, while the labour ministry has advised publicsector employees to work from home. The ministry also ordered a pause from midday to 5:00 pm for outdoor work including food delivery, to Thursday. Sheltering under a parasol, electrician Fotis Pappous said he had started his workday a few hours earlier, at 6:00 am, 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 is 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. An air-conditioned hall has been opened at Syntagma metro station in central Athens to give the public somewhere to shelter from the heat, the public transport authority said.

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