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Death toll rises as heatwaves hit Cyprus, Greece and Türkiye: Will this be Europe’s hottest summer?

An army officer wipes the face of a member of the presidential guard, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, central Athens, on Thursday June 13, 2024.
An army officer wipes the face of a member of the presidential guard, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, central Athens, on Thursday June 13, 2024. Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris
By Euronews Green
Published on Updated
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Italy is set to see temperatures of 42-44C this week.

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Heatwaves across Cyprus and Greece have left multiple people dead with Türkiye battling wildfires as temperatures soared above 40C.

Parts of southern Europe have sweltered in record temperatures as warm air was blown across from North Africa and more is yet to come.

Warnings have been issued as the heat brought deadly consequences for some, with schools and tourist attractions closed.

Meteorologists say it could be a preview of the extreme weather still to come this summer.

Tourist stand in the shade behind bushes in central Athens, on Thursday 13 June, 2024.
Tourist stand in the shade behind bushes in central Athens, on Thursday 13 June, 2024. AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Heatwaves in Greece turn deadly for tourists

The first heatwave of the summer in Greece saw the ancient Acropolis shut to tourists, schools closed and medics stationed across Athens. Meteorologists have said this stretch of high heat will “go down in history” and could be a sign of things to come this summer in the country.

At least five tourists, including UK TV doctor and journalist Michael Mosley, have died in Greece over the last few weeks.

A missing American tourist was found dead on the beach on a small island west of Corfu on Sunday, according to local media reports. The remains of a Dutch tourist were found on the eastern Greek island of Samos on Saturday. These are just the latest in a series of cases where visitors disappeared or fell ill after setting out on hikes in the extreme heat.

A man takes a shower at a beach in Faliro seaside district of Athens, on Thursday 13 June, 2024.
A man takes a shower at a beach in Faliro seaside district of Athens, on Thursday 13 June, 2024.AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Temperatures soared above 40C in parts of the country last week with Crete reaching 44.5C and the Peloponnese peninsula 43.9C, according to the Athens National Observatory website. Athens reached 42C as health warnings were issued.

Greece’s longest-ever heatwave was recorded last year in July where high temperatures lasted 16 days. The Acropolis was also forced to close to tourists during this period of unprecedented extreme heat.

A tourist is helped by First Aid personnel from ancient Acropolis site, in central Athens, Wednesday, 12 June, 2024.
A tourist is helped by First Aid personnel from ancient Acropolis site, in central Athens, Wednesday, 12 June, 2024. AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

Heatwaves are getting earlier in the country according to some experts. Meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos told Greek state television channel ERT that in the 20th century, “we never had a heatwave before 19 June. We have had several in the 21st century but none before 15 June.”

The high heat has now started to ease across the country, returning to the average of around 31C to 33C for this time of year.

Italy set to bake in first heatwave of the summer

Italy is currently baking in their first big heatwave of the summer with an African anticyclone boosting temperatures up as far as a sweltering 40C.

That is 10C above seasonal averages, says Antonio Sanò, founder of the weather website ilmeteo.it.

By the end of the week, thermometres will register 39-40C in Rome, Naples and Florence, while they will reach 42-44C in inland parts of Sardinia and Sicily.

Two dead in Cyprus from heatstroke as temperatures soar

A weeklong heatwave has also baked Cyprus with health officials saying on Sunday that a second elderly person has now died from heatstroke. At least another three elderly patients are in serious condition and hospitals have been dealing with many cases of heat exhaustion, according to local media reports.

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The country issued its first red alert of the season on Friday as some areas reached 45C - 10C above the average for this time of year, setting a record for the hottest June day ever. Heavy and moderate outdoor work was also halted by the Department of Labour inspection due to the heat.

Classes were cut short for young children too after criticism over a lack of cooling systems in schools.

Men take shelter from the sun during a hot day at Elephtherias square in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus.
Men take shelter from the sun during a hot day at Elephtherias square in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus.AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

Temperatures on the Mediterranean island exceeded 40C all week. Cyprus has also been suffering from a lack of rain with the country’s meteorological department telling local media 2024 so far has been the 10th driest in 123 years.

As a consequence, firefighters have been battling wildfires with strong winds hampering their efforts in the mountainous area southwest of the capital city Nicosia. More than 3.2 square kilometres of forest have been burnt.

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Two communities in the Paphos district were evacuated last week when a wildfire threatened their homes. Aircraft from Greece and Jordan were involved in the firefighting efforts.

Türkiye hit by extreme temperatures and fires

Temperatures in Türkiye last week were around 8 to 12C higher than the season average. Maximum temperatures reached 40C and above in many cities.

In Istanbul, warnings were issued to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, sick, pregnant women and children against prolonged exposure to the sun. High humidity levels also posed a challenge to those trying to cool off.

A man cool off at the Bosphorus during a hot day in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, 13 June, 2024.
A man cool off at the Bosphorus during a hot day in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday, 13 June, 2024. AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Wildfires have also been a concern throughout the hot weather with firefighters battling to keep them under control using planes, helicopters and other machinery.

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On Friday, a total of seven provinces across Türkiye were hit by forest fires, though most were under control before the end of the day.

The worst of the heat has now subsided, with temperatures hovering around 30C.

Why is it so hot in southeast Europe?

Winds blowing heat and dust into the east Mediterranean from North Africa are behind this unusually early June heatwave. An analysis by the non-profit Climate Central claims that the extreme heat was made five times more likely by climate change with at least 290 million people suffering in unusually hot conditions.

Europe is the world’s fastest-warming continent, according to analysis by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S).

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These periods of extreme heat are having a major impact on health too. A joint report from the UN's World Meteorological Organization and C3S published earlier this year found that over the last 20 years, heatwave-related deaths have increased by 30 per cent in Europe.

Temperatures across the rest of this summer are unlikely to ease up either. The EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in its seasonal forecast that temperatures across July, August and September are likely to be hotter than average.

“'The latter part of the European summer is likely to be warmer than average everywhere (with above-normal chance of exceeding the 80th percentile of climatology for seasonal means), drier than average in the south and wetter than average in the far north,' C3S said.

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