1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Southern Europe faces new heat wave as Greek fires burn on

July 20, 2023

Several European countries are sending firefighting teams to Greece as wildfires there continue to rage. The Mediterranean region is likely to be hit by a new heat wave after days of high temperatures, forecasters say.

A firefighter spraying water in Greece amid raging wildfires
Help is on the way for Greek firefightersImage: Costas Baltas/AA/picture alliance

Firefighting teams from Poland, Romania and Slovakia are due to arrive in Greece on Thursday to help local and other foreign emergency services combat fires near the capital, Athens, as EU climate authorities say the world seems on track for its hottest July since measurements began.

The firefighters are being deployed in Greece as part of an EU civil protection mechanism that foresees sending international crews to parts of southern Europe over the summer.

Israel has also said it will send two firefighting planes, adding to the four from Italy and France.

The fires in Greece are being driven partly by hot summer weather, with temperatures in the country's south expected to reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the week.

Greek authorities said that several historical sites, including the Acropolis, will be closed to tourists during most of the afternoon from midday during the new heat wave, which is expected to run till Sunday. 

The famous site, one of Athens' prime tourist attractions, already closed for three days from last Friday because of the heat but reopened to visitors from Monday.

Security guards at the Acropolis are also striking till Sunday for four hours every afternoon to protest at having to work in the high temperatures.

Wildfires rage in Greece amid hot, dry weather

What is the fire situation in Greece?

A fire brigade official told Reuters news agency that a fire west of Athens that prompted mass evacuations earlier in the week had been brought under control. However, there were continued evacuations on Thursday along a highway between Athens and the southern city of Corinth.

On the island of Rhodes, a blaze in a forested mountain area continues to rage, with many residents forced to flee the flames.

Emergency authorities said patrols of forest areas in Greece will continue by land and air in a bid to prevent further conflagrations as the hot weather creates tinderbox conditions.

People watching a firefighting helicopter near Mandra, Greece, as a wildfire burns
Helicopters and other aircraft are being used to fight the fires as here in Mandra, GreeceImage: Alkis Konstantinidis/REUTERS

Massive southern heat wave

Over the past week, many regions in southern Europe have been affected by extreme heat, with forecasters predicting more scorching weather to come.

Temperatures in the Italian capital, Rome, eased slightly on Thursday after reaching 42-43 C on Tuesday. Tempreatures on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia were forecast reach 46 C.

Parts of Spain saw temperatures as high as 45 C on Wednesday. In the Canary Islands, some 400 firefighters have been fighting a fire across 3,500 hectares (8,649 acres) of forest. People there have been warned to wear face masks outside due to poor air quality.

In the south of France, temperatures of around 40 C were recorded on Tuesday, including on the island of Corsica. 

The high temperatures in Europe come as several other world regions, including in the southern US, Iraq and China, experience extreme heat amid the northern hemisphere summer.

Climate warnings

The EU's climate observatory says the world is likely heading for its warmest July since records have been kept.

"The first 15 days of July have been the warmest 15 days on record," Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service(C3S), told the AFP news agency.

The World Meteorological Organization recently said preliminary global figures showed last month was the hottest June on record.

Climate scientists are in overwhelming agreement that the current heat waves are being exacerbated and made more frequent by human-made global warming driven largely by the burning of fossil fuels.

tj/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)