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The BBC's Paul Wood in Athens
"Fire is the new threat in Greece"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 July, 2000, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Dozens die in Balkan heatwave
Athens may be hit with rotting rubbish as well as heat
A heatwave scorching the Balkan region this week has killed dozens of people and put the region's emergency services on full alert.

In Croatia, some 40 people died of heart attacks caused by the heat in its four major cities while hundreds more were hospitalised with serious health problems, a local daily said.

Crowded beach
Many Greeks have fled to the beaches for relief from the heatwave
Greece is facing its hottest day of the year on Thursday, with temperature expected to hit 44 C (111 F).

The country also has to cope with power cuts and the threat of a strike by rubbish collectors.

The National Meteorological Service said the high temperatures would continue until early next week.

On Wednesday, two people died from dehydration while dozens were sent to hospitals, authorities said.

Four have died in Sofia where temperatures in the shade hit 40 C
The Bulgarian capital Sofia reported four deaths on Wednesday as temperatures in the shade rose to a baking 40 C.

In Yugoslavia, three people suffered heart attacks in northern Serbia, the news agency FoNet reported.

One person who could not bear the high temperatures committed suicide, the news agency reported.

Macedonia has been sweltering under a sizzling heat of 45 C in some places, officials said.

Full alert

Governments across the region have warned people to stay indoors.

The Greek government activated its Xenocrates emergency plan on Monday, which requires state buildings to provide air- conditioned spaces to the public.

Emergency services are on full alert in Greece and elsewhere
Public beaches have also stayed open late into the night.

Hospitals are on full alert, all leave has been cancelled for ambulance drivers and the authorities are also watching for forest fires breaking out.

As Athens suffers a thick smog that is making breathing difficult, it is facing the prospect of dealing with rotting rubbish on its streets.

Rubbish collectors have said they will go ahead with their strike despite a government order for civil mobilisation.

Medical services and firefighters were also on full alert in Turkey, with special telephone lines set up to respond to heat-related queries.

Croatia declared its north-eastern region - where a drought is expected to lower crop yields by 50 to 70% - a disaster zone on Wednesday.

In Bosnia, the government is also considering declaring a state of natural disaster members after several forest fires broke out.

The heatwave has been blamed on masses of hot air from the Sahara Desert moving north.

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05 Jul 00 | Europe
Greece plans for heatwave
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