Acropolis' midday closure leaves many tourists in the lurch as a heat wave lashes southern Europe

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A bather takes a shower during a hot day at Alimos beach near Athens, Friday, July 14, 2023. Temperatures were starting to creep up in Greece, where a heatwave was forecast to reach up to 44 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country over the weekend. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

NICOSIA – Disgruntled tourists bemoaned the temporary closing of the Acropolis in Athens on Friday as Greek authorities proactively shut the world monument’s gates between midday and early evening amid a heat wave that continues to grip southern Europe.

Red Cross staff handed out bottled water to tourists wilting in long lines hoping to beat the closure and scale the steps up to the gleaming Parthenon temple as temperatures were expected to peak above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the Greek capital.

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Some visitors were frustrated at being left in the lurch because they were unaware of Greek authorities' last-minute announcement of the Acropolis’ closure at noon. One visitor said he was disappointed as his cruise ship would depart later in the day.

“I even bought a €50 ticket to skip the line to enter and I couldn’t enter the place,” Hector from Mexico told The Associated Press.

Others who beat the closing timewere elated despite the heat, like Sylvia from Colombia, who said she came prepared.

“We have water, we have some ventilators,” she told the AP. “And I think it’s always an amazing experience to be here.”

Red Cross coordinator Ioanna Fotopoulou said paramedics on hand administered first aid to a number of tourists exhibiting symptoms of dehydration and experiencing fainting spells.

In Spain, people packed the beaches as the country enjoyed a short-lived respite from its second heat wave of the summer.

Temperatures were still expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius in at least 12 of Spain’s 17 regions Friday, although that was down from a high of 45 degrees (113 Fahrenheit) that scorched the southeastern town of Albox on Wednesday.

Aemet, the Spanish state weather agency, says another heat wave is expected to start Sunday with highest temperatures yet to come.

In Italy, the country’s health ministry on Friday warned residents of 10 cities from Bologna to Rome to avoid being out in the midday heat due to extreme temperatures. The same warning has been issued to another five cities in Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia for this weekend.

Temperatures in the country are expected to reach 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit) above average in some areas this weekend.

On the island nation of Cyprus, in the southeastern Mediterranean, people clustered under air conditioning units and cooling fans set to full blast, as midday temperatures inland were forecast to hit a high of 43 C (110 Fahrenheit).

Temperatures weren’t expected to go below 25 C (77 Fahrenheit) through the night, while humidity levels especially along the southern coastline were expected to reach an uncomfortable 65%.

The temperatures were forecast to hover at the same levels Saturday, with a small dip expected the following day.

The Forestry Service issued a “red alert”, appealing to the public to take extra care and avoid using any machinery outdoors that could spark a fire.

In the capital, Nicosia, more than two dozen elderly people sought refuge at a dedicated heat shelter the municipality reserves for summer heat waves.

Councillor Elena Loucaidou told The Associated Press that many of the elderly who are on low incomes appreciate the opportunity to save on their electricity bill and enjoy the shelter’s air-conditioned environs.

Yiannoula Phinikaridou, 78, was among them.

“In this heat wave, it’s very helpful for us to come here, get refreshed with cold drinks that they offer us,” she told Cypriot media. “It’s very important for us low-income retirees to save on electricity.”

The heat is taking a toll on the country’s economic activity, particularly in the construction sector where laws oblige employers to offer workers frequent water breaks, shaded rest areas and even suspend work if temperatures hit specified high levels.

Cyprus Building Contractors Federation Director Yiannos Poumbouris said most contractors adhere to the law, but that often translates to diminished productivity because of delays and additional pay to employees if they are required to work either very early or later in the day to avoid peak temperature hours.

For instance, cement pouring must be done either very early in the day or much later, meaning higher costs for contractors. Poumbouris said there are no figures on lost productivity as it is difficult to gauge, but that the contractors expect this during summer time.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg weighed in on the high temperatures in a post on Twitter, saying global heat records should serve as an urgent wake-up call.

“Last week we experienced the hottest days ever recorded, many days in a row. We are also experiencing record high sea level temperatures and record low ice levels. This is an emergency.”

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AP writers Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Colleen Barry in Milan and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.