The Athens Acropolis, Greece’s most visited tourist site, was closed to the public during the hottest hours of on Wednesday as the season’s earliest-ever heatwave swept the country, prompting school closures and health warnings.

The Unesco-listed archaeological site closed from midday to 5pm, with temperatures topping 43 degrees Celsius in central Greece. Temperatures of up to 44 degrees Celsius are expected today as the phenomenon peaks, with up to 43 degrees Celsius forecast in the capital. Meteorologists have noted this is the earliest heatwave — which for Greece is temperatures exceeding 38 degrees Celsius for at least three days — on record.

“This heatwave will go down in history,” meteorologist Panos Giannopoulos said on state TV ERT. “In the 20th century we never had a heatwave before June 19. We have had several in the 21st century, but none before June 15,” he said. The climate crisis and civil protection ministry has warned of a very high risk of fires in the Attica region around Athens. Schools stayed closed in several regions of the country on Wednesday and will do so again on Thursday, including in the capital, while the labour ministry has advised public-sector employees to work from home.

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