Life at a standstill during the hottest days in Greece

The streets of Mystras in southern Greece became deserted, as people “didn’t want to do anything” as the temperature reached 44 degrees Celsius.

“It’s too hot,” said Panagiotis Vahviolos, a restaurant owner in the town of Mystras, southern Greece, on July 26. “It was so hot that no one wanted to move.”

On the hottest day of Greece’s longest and harshest heatwave, Vahavilos hid in the shade to avoid the scorching sun. If possible, he or anyone here does not want to go out when the temperature reaches 44 degrees Celsius.

“30 or 40 years ago, our forefathers used to harvest crops at this time,” Vahavilos said, shaking his head in dismay. “Now, only tourists are seen in the square. Locals are all hiding in their homes.”

Panagiotis Vahavilos, restaurant owner in the town of Mystras.  Photo: Guardian

Panagiotis Vahavilos, restaurant owner in the town of Mystras. Image: Guardian

Vahaviolos, 60, has spent most of his life in Mystras. He first helped his father run the pub in the square, then opened his own shop more than 30 years ago. He has seen several heat waves, but none as terrible as the past few weeks.

“I think we’ve all had bad air conditioners,” he said with a laugh, “but I never thought in my life there would be such a hot day.”

The peak of the third heat wave, with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, occurred on July 26 in Greece. More than two weeks after the first extreme weather event occurred, an estimated 8.5 million people experienced temperatures above 41 degrees Celsius and 120,000 people faced temperatures of 46 degrees Celsius. temperature increased to 47 degrees Celsius.

The Ministry of Labor prohibits working outdoors in the afternoon. Archaeological sites are also closed.

Weather forecast at 12:00 on July 26 in Greece.  Graphics: Guardian

Temperature at 12 o’clock on July 26 in Greece. Graphics: Guardian

At 8:30, when Panayiota Boursoula opened the only pharmacy in Mystras, the heat had reached “almost unbearable”. By 13:00, nearly 5 hours after turning on the air conditioner, the temperature in the store was about 27 degrees Celsius.

“Nobody goes to work, that’s for sure. I think the whole of Greece is like that now. Thank God, it’s almost over,” she said.

Greece’s civil service and climate crisis response agency said authorities had to deal with 400 wildfires in a week, evacuating people as the fires approached resorts, villages and towns. Temperatures began to drop from July 27, when heavy rain took place in many areas.

Heat is both an economic disaster and an ecological disaster. Wildfires have raged in parts of Greece over the past two weeks, following three consecutive heat waves in the Mediterranean. The disaster killed five people, including two pilots on a firefighting plane, and forced authorities to launch a large-scale evacuation of tourists in Rhodes last weekend.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in several wildfire areas in Rhodes to assess the damage. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged to compensate residents for damage and consider compensating affected tourists, after nearly 2,000 guests fled their Rhodes hotel over the weekend during an evacuation unprecedented in Greece.

Rhodes Islanders wear gas masks as a forest fire rages in the village of Gennadi on July 25.  Photo: AFP

Rhodes Islanders wear gas masks as a forest fire rages in the village of Gennadi on July 25. Image: AFP

Jayne and Godfrey Wilkinson, two British teachers who retired to Greece six years ago, were drinking beer in Mystras Square. They said they experienced “heat like a fireplace” through car windows while driving to historic sites.

“On July 23, the temperature in Kalamata reached 45.5 degrees Celsius. We have never experienced such heat,” Godfrey said. “In New Zealand, where we used to live, there was a time when it was as hot as 43 degrees Celsius. Everyone knows climate change happened 30 years ago but no one takes it seriously. If you speak up, you will be called. guessing. But now we have come to this situation.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that humanity is “sitting in the hot chair” and that what is happening matches the predictions and warnings that are constantly repeated.

“The only surprise is the rate of climate change,” he said. “The era of global warming is over. The era of global boiling has come”.

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