Authorities brace for heat wave

State services yesterday braced to cope with an increase in citizens suffering from heat-related ailments, putting hospitals on alert and setting up air-conditioned halls for public use. Meanwhile, tinderbox-dry conditions thwarted efforts by firefighters to contain a blaze burning for a fourth day on Mount Mainalo in the Peloponnese. The fire, sparked last Friday by a lightning bolt hitting a point near the mountain’s peak, descended its slopes yesterday, fueled by strong winds and rising temperatures. Some 200 hectares are believed to have been ravaged by late last night, although residential areas had not been threatened. With temperatures set to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in many parts of the country today, fire services are on standby to avert the outbreak of fresh fires. In a related development, the Health Ministry has launched an action plan, code-named Perseus, urging medical services across the country to prepare for an influx of patients suffering from heat stroke and other heat-induced ailments. Elderly citizens are advised not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary. Local authorities in Athens and other cities have opened up several air-conditioned halls for citizens to cool off. In the capital, City of Athens Friendship Clubs (Lesches Filias) will be air-conditioned and open to the public between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in many key districts including Votanikos, Kypseli, Neos Cosmos, Petralona and Ambelokipi. Tomorrow, when temperatures are expected to peak in Athens, municipal staff will be distributing free bottles of water and information leaflets in Syntagma Square.