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The heatwave that hit Greece last year was described as the greatest ecological disaster in decades. This year isn’t looking any better for the country, or the rest of Europe.

A wildfire in the suburb of Voula, south of Athens, Greece, June 4 2022 (Image: AAP/EPA/Yannis Kolesidis)

Halfway through our Zoom interview, Eleni Myrivili takes out a folding fan and starts vigorously swishing it back and forth in front of her face. It’s 35 degrees in Athens and even for a self-confessed heat lover, it’s starting to feel a little uncomfortable. 

But it’s not her personal discomfort that most concerns Myrivili, Athens’ chief heat officer and the first– and so far only — person to hold such a job in Europe. Memories of the forest fires that licked around the edges of the city just weeks after she took up her new post last summer are fresh in her mind — she describes the scenes then as “dystopian” — and she is worried about a recurrence. This, more than the sweltering muggy air, is what’s keeping her up at night.

“I’m scared of a long heatwave, a long dry spell with very high temperatures because that ignites the fires much easier and it also creates problems for my city that have to do with economics. If we keep having these heatwaves in July and August, how is that going to affect the main source of income and wealth, which is tourism?” she tells me.

Read more about the extreme weather plaguing Europe…

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