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Heatwave alert for Greek islands

- by Andy Cornish

Holiday visitors to the Greek islands can expect even more sunshine than usual as southern Europe remains gripped by a heatwave.

Temperatures are projected to stay in the high 30s Celsius well into August, and it will probably feel even warmer thanks to high humidity and a drop in the northern breeze that has so far kept many Greek islands a little less hot.

Some regions on the Greek mainland are offering air conditioned public building free of charge to the elderly as they try to cope with soaring temperatures that have topped 40°C in some places.

The Greek Meteorological Service has issued a warning of even higher temperatures forecast to hit 41°C in western Greece.

The heatwave has triggered weather warnings in 26 European cities with thermometers reaching 47°C in Spain, France, Italy, Croatia and other countries Europe.

Greece has so far escaped the worst conditions but is likely to become the next victim as the northern winds subside.

The Greek Islands are typically cooler than the mainland (but not by much), but tourists have been warned to stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day.

The heatwave has already sparked forest fires on some islands with residents evacuated from homes on Kythera, off the southern tip of the Peloponnese as winds fanned the flames.

Late July and August traditionally sees a spike in forest fires in Greece and the Greek Islands where high temperatures and lack of rain contribute to tinder box conditions.

The highest temperatures on the islands so far have been reported on Rhodes which topped 38°C and the lowest are on the islands of the Sporades, including Skiathos and Skopelos where they could only manage 29°C,

Many Greek Islands are expected to record temperatures up to 34° in August but southern Crete and the eastern Aegean islands are expecting much higher temperatures of between 37°C and 38°C.

The official definition of a heatwave in Greece is a minimum of three consecutive days when the air temperature hits 36.5°C or above.

This year's scorching weather hardly compares to the heatwave of 2007 which saw the thermometer in Athens hit 46°C and forest fires across the country which led to more than 70 deaths.