The Acropolis of Athens in Greece (image via Flickr)

Across southern Europe, large wildfires have so far killed eight people and caused mass evacuations while also threatening to damage ancient cultural sites. In Greece, authorities have partially closed the Acropolis and other major archaeological sites while battling with dozens of conflagrations around Athens.

Over 100 fires broke around the city since Tuesday, August 3, according to media reports. Hundreds of firefighters have struggled to contain the fires in the face of an extreme heatwave, with temperatures climbing up to 113 degrees coupled with strong winds and dry conditions. No casualties have been reported but thousands were evacuated from their homes on the islands of Evia and Kos, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Images from Athens showed the Acropolis shrouded in smoke earlier this week. The UNESCO-protected world heritage site will remain closed to visitors during afternoon hours for the rest of the week, Greek authorities have announced. The fires have also threatened to encroach on Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic games, and an ancient monastery on the island of Evia.

In Turkey, eight people have died from the fires and 10 others have been hospitalized. The flames spread across several coastline cities, reaching a power plant in the southern city of Muğla. Large wildfires have also ravaged vast areas in central and southern Italy. At the same time, the country’s northern region has been suffering from severe flooding and landslides in recent days.

“The skies were grey and red, and there was ash falling on us,” Eleni Myrivili, the former deputy mayor of Athens, told the BBC Radio 4 Today program, describing the scene as “apocalyptic.”

Myrivili explained that closing the Acropolis was “an issue of health,” adding, “We don’t want people to be exposed to the sun and heat for long periods of time in an area where there is no shade. This is the thing with extreme heat — it’s a subtle, slow and invisible kind of enemy.”

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...