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News 24 Jul 15

Skopje Revamp Forges Ahead Despite Heat

As Macedonian authorities warn people against exposure to scorching summer heat, construction workers plough on with the government-funded Skopje 2014 revamp project.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Amid searing temperatures of about 40 degrees Celsius and health warnings to stay home, hundreds of construction workers working on the massive revamp of the Macedonian capital are still baking away in the sun daily.

Construction sites in and around Skopje’s central area on Thursday were brimming with workers, even at midday.

While some placed new cobbles on the main “Macedonia” square, working in short shifts to avoid dehydration, others carried out masonry work or climbed on high scaffolding on the nearby buildings that form part of "Skopje 2014".

Some were not even wearing safety helmets and other safety equipment.

“It all depends on how conscientious their employers are,” Robert Hot, head of Macedonia’s chamber of construction companies, said.

“I believe that most of them [employers] are aware of the situation and are granting longer rests for their workers. Some have moved workers out of direct exposure to the sun.”

The city authorities and doctors have warned ordinary citizens to stay home and avoid exposure to the sun from 10am to 5pm.

The authorities have also advised employers to exempt older persons and pregnant women from the obligation to come to work.

Formally, the authorities have yet to proclaim a heat "alert" in Skopje and have not banned work in the open, however.

For that to happen, the law says that the temperature in Skopje must reach 41 degrees Celsius.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic


The temperature on Thursday on a hill near Skopje was 36 degrees, the Meteorological Centre said. But the temperatures in the concrete and asphalt-filled city centre were clearly much highger, and more like 40 degrees.

“Working in these temperatures endangers the health of the workers as well as their safety, bearing in mind that many of them work on scaffolding that is not very safe,” Dejan Lutovski, from the leftist “Lenka” movement, told Radio Free Europe.

Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of Classical Antiquity, the Skopje 2014 project, which was launched in 2010, envisages the construction of more than 100 buildings and tall sculptures, including museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and offices.

Many other bronze and marble statues are also being erected to adorn the surroundings, including a triumphal arch, about 15 equestrian statues and a memorial complex dedicated to fallen heroes.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic


The piece-de-resistance is a 22-metre-high bronze equestrian statue of the Ancient warrior, Alexander the Great, standing on top of a white marble fountain in Skopje’s central square.

While opponents deride the mainly government-funded project as bad taste and pricey for a small, poor country, others insist that it is benefitting the once shabby-looking capital.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

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In Pictures

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Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

The government-funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, called Skopje 2014, aims to give the city a more impressive and ‘historic’ appearance. See new images in this updated gallery.