Three die in record-high heat wave across Greece

Three people died yesterday as continued hot weather across the country kept temperatures well above the 40 degree Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) mark in what is set to be the the hottest June ever recorded. The Health Ministry said that three pensioners, aged 76, 84 and 103, died of medical conditions aggravated by heat stroke in central and southern Greece. The government ordered all public offices to work only half-days today and tomorrow, closing at midday to reduce energy consumption and allow people to stay out of the sun during the peak hours of the day. «Based on the forecasts, temperatures are expected to be very high for the next two days, so we have taken these extraordinary measures,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Temperatures are expected to remain high for a second week, reaching 43C (109F) in Athens. National electricity consumption exceeded 10,000 megawatts to hit a record high yesterday, fueled by heavy air-conditioning use and causing limited power outages in parts of Athens and Thessaloniki. The government urged the public to avoid unnecessary energy consumption but insisted that the national grid had been adequately strengthened to avoid widespread outages. «The system had been reinforced to withstand even higher levels of consumption,» said Nikos Stefanou, general secretary at the Development Ministry. Greece has been relying on importing electricity from neighboring countries to help meet demand. Temperatures are not expected to ease until Thursday, according to weather experts.