Fires in Greece cause devastation, disruptions as heat wave continues

Aug 9, 2021

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At Athens International (ATH) on Saturday, people were fanning themselves with passports, boarding passes and printouts of COVID-19 test results. The heat, particularly in crowded check-in and security lines, was stifling.

The lack of air conditioning was the direct result of power outages caused by the wildfires raging across Greece right now.

Greece has been plagued by a crippling heat wave for weeks, with record-breaking temperatures exceeding 46 degrees in certain regions. The Acropolis of Athens was forced to close during the hottest part of the afternoon last week to protect visitors and employees.

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TPG’s principal writer Gene Sloan experienced frequent power outages at the Sofitel Athens Airport last week. And while I was touring the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, the lights flickered and then went out entirely, plunging many of the medieval castle’s rooms into total darkness.

But in addition to taxing the power supply and affecting popular tourist attractions, the heat wave and drought have caused real devastation in the form of major wildfires across the country, as well as in neighboring Turkey.

On Sunday, 8 August, The New York Times reported that thousands more locals and tourists had been evacuated. Forests on the island of Evia have been incinerated, and the fires have threatened such ancient landmarks as Olympia. People have lost their businesses, their homes and their lives.

Far from the immediate threat of flames, smoke could be seen — and smelled — around the Greek islands last week. Hazy skies were a disturbing reminder that wildfires can be dangerous even hundreds of miles away from the blaze.

The U.S. Embassy in Greece issued a natural disaster alert on Friday, 6 August, warning travelers of the ongoing wildfire threat. In addition to the aforementioned power disruptions and poor air quality, the embassy cautioned that the wildfires could also affect water availability. Wildfires can also cause significant flight disruptions.

Visitors to Greece should closely monitor the situation this summer, and keep an eye on the daily fire risk map from the General Secretariat for Civil Protection.

Feature photo of tourists on Evia waiting for a ferry to transport them to mainland Greece on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. Photo by Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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