Saturday 1 October 2016

Chaotic scenes in Athens as pensioners queue to withdraw cash

Caroline Crawford in Athens

Published 01/07/2015 | 12:12

Pensioners stand in a queue outside a bank in Athens (AP)
Pensioners stand in a queue outside a bank in Athens (AP)
Pro-Euro protesters attend a rally in front of the parliament building, in Athens, yesterday
An elderly man waits to receive his pension outside the National Bank of Greece headquarters in Athens (AP)
A pensioner becomes emotional outside a closed branch of the national bank of Greece in Athens: nearly 50pc of pensioners live below the poverty line in Greece on pensions of less than €700 per month
A bank employee orders pensioners to form a queue to enter the bank in numbered order, outside a bank in Athens (AP)

AS GREEKS woke up this morning to the knowledge that the country had defaulted on its €1.6bn IMF loan repayment there were chaotic scenes outside a number of banks where pensioners queued to withdraw money.

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The banks had agreed to open up to 1,000 branches to facilitate the thousands of pensioners who do not have bank cards.

But at many branches around the country thousands of ordinary Greeks gathered around banks from early morning hoping to gain access.

Several banks had to keep their doors shut to stop the surge of people from entering.

As the morning continued, doors at banks remained manned as the large queues of pensioners were asked for identification before being allowed entry to collect their €120 for the week. They will also be issued with cash cards for future use.

One man, who did not wish to give his name, was denied entry at an Athens bank.

“People want their money but they won’t let us in. Nobody knows how long this will go on and I demanded my money, but I am not a pensioner and they wouldn’t let me in. I cannot live on €60 a day,” he said.

Some branches caused outrage among those gathered when they decided to deal with the crowds in alphabetical order over a number of days.

Meanwhile queues remained at ATMs around the capital city Athens. At each machine the numbers waiting to withdraw their daily allowance of €60 varied from around five to 12 people.

By late morning some ATMs in the city were already running out of cash, with people having to rejoin longer queues at other machines.

Tourist businesses in the city were also suffering today. Yanis Tziovaras works for the sightseeing company, Athens Happy Train. He explained how the numbers using the usually busy service had dropped off dramatically.

“We should have three trains running full at this time. But our first train had eight people and this one is empty. The tourists don’t know what to do and the locals have no money because the banks are closed. We would usually have many parents on days off bring their children on tours but this week it has fallen off.

Mr Tziovaras said Greek people were confused about what was happening but said many believed there would not be a referendum.

“People don’t know what is going to happen next week, next year, in the next hour. I don’t think there will be a vote, no one knows if we are meant to say Yes or No, we don’t know what we are being asked. I think about 70pc to 75pc would vote yes but I think they will stop the vote tonight and make a new deal,” he added.

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