Heat sparks outages, fires

Sizzling high temperatures yesterday helped spark at least 95 fires across the country and caused blackouts in many parts of Attica as the national power network struggled to meet increased demand. The fire service was out in full force, striving to extinguish blazes in different parts of the country. The worst of the fires were on the island of Poros, at Diakofto, in the northern Peloponnese, in Ileia prefecture, in Larissa and in Volos. On Poros, tourists were evacuated from hotels in the Neorion district, where a large blaze proved difficult to control. There were no reports of injuries but several homes were damaged. Firemen were struggling to contain the blaze late last night. Meanwhile state officials started assessing the extent of the damage wreaked by Tuesday’s fires in Halkidiki, the Peloponnese and on Crete. Although temperatures dropped two degrees yesterday, reaching highs of 44 Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), power consumption remained high too, as millions of air-conditioning units operated in homes and offices. According to electrical appliance retailers, sales of air-conditioning units have reached record levels. In the past three days alone, 25,000 air conditioners were sold in Attica. But the increased use of air conditioners proved too much for the power network at times, with blackouts in parts of Attica, Crete and other islands continuing for a second day. However, Development Ministry General Secretary Nikos Stefanou claimed that the electricity network’s performance had been impressive. «It was a miracle, the grid handled tremendous demand,» he told Flash Radio. «The distribution network in some areas of Athens was built to handle loads of only a fifth of what they are today,» he said. The Public Power Corporation has appealed to citizens to avoid using several electrical appliances at the same time. Media reports yesterday set the heat-related death toll at 10, though authorities have so far confirmed only five deaths. The heat wave is expected to subside from today with temperatures dropping to relatively seasonal levels over the weekend.

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