Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
We're outdoing you over here:

Today downtown Athens touched 43 Celsius. And tomorrow it might just reach 44. Starting Thursday, we're expecting some decent chilling down. As I write this, it's two o'clock in the morning and I think the temperature is ~32 (and I'm in the north of Athens which is kind of better than downtown). Tomorrow, I'll be flirting with heat collapse as I'll be running around downtown Athens on various chores. My wife will be tour-guiding at the Acropolis which means staying under the sun and trying to talk (one hopes) coherently for a couple of hours. We'll see if we make it...

Although this is the third day of > 40 C highs, the situation is not uncommon over here (although we're touching some historical records around the country) and people know what to do. We are having serious power supply problems however as various plants around the country failed, there was some sort of power failure in the Balkans (Bulgaria? I'm not sure) which meant that a large part of Northern Greece that was importing electricity from our neighbours blacked out and the Development Minister is all over the TV channels pleading with the population to turn down their damn ACs.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Jul 24th, 2007 at 07:46:16 PM EST
OK, we made it but the environment and others didn't: a huge forest fire in what is developing into a record forest-fire season, has burned already a large part of the magnificent and dense forest of the Northern Peloponnese all the way to the sea - and is spreading southward. Both major highways from Athens to Patras and Western Greece in general are shut down due to the fires which are continuing unabated as I write, having burned down already between 200 and 300 sq. km. of forest, agricultural land and approximately ten villages. At least three people were burned to death in these villages (where the locals refuse to be evacuated by helicopter as they are trying to protect their homes and property) already. The firemen and the emergency personnel have explicitly stopped trying to extinguish the fires since the scale is beyond human control and no fire extinguishing airplanes and helicopters can operate during the night, focusing instead simply on saving lives and villages (a couple of towns are in danger as well).

This a couple of days after two air force fire fighters crashed trying to fly as low as possible in order to better target the water load they carried on a fire in the island of Evia. And less then a month after the fires that burned down a significant part of the Parnitha national forest next to Athens, mount Pilion and myriads of fires large and small erupting all over the country daily. As the fire in the Peloponnese develops there are at least 4 other major fires around the country and tens of smaller ones.

The root causes of all of this is a very hot summer, poor forest management and an attempt by the government to modify the constitutional definition of protected forest areas, a move that was obviously construed (and not irrationally) by some owners (real or alleged) of forested land as a sign that after a major fire their properties might be legally de-characterized as forest areas (with elections coming soon), meaning that they might be able to build stuff there - thus the ridiculously large percentage of arsons as a cause of this year's forest catastrophe. The whole protected area - forest area - public property encroachment - illegal contruction issue in Greece, is a very long story, but suffice it to say that it has resulted in the gradual minimization of forest areas around major cities and tourist areas over these past 40 years.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Wed Jul 25th, 2007 at 07:16:46 PM EST
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