Thursday, May 6, 2010
Three people have died after a fire in an Athens bank as protesters fill the streets to demonstrate against austerity measures aimed to save Greece from its massive debts. Many of the nations services were shut down yesterday in a sweeping 24-hour strike, which follows on from earlier strikes and protests Monday.
Protesters reportedly smashed the windows of a Marfin Bank building, and proceeded to hurl bombs containing petrol into the building. Three people, two men and a pregnant women, died of asphyxiation in the resulting fire, and around twenty people were rescued from the wreckage by firefighters. Police in Athens were placed on high alert in response to the attacks.
Up to 100,000 people were reported to have taken part in the demonstrations, the largest since Greece’s economic crisis began last year. In addition to the bank bombings, protesters reportedly set fire to other buildings, cars and bins, as well as setting up barricades in the streets. Protesters also attempted to storm police surrounding the Greek parliament, using marble broken from buildings as weapons.
Police responded by using tear gas and water cannons against protesters; a journalist for Al Jazeera in Athens said that “[i]t looked like a pitched battle for quite a while. An awful lot of tear gas used by the police, they would say no doubt to protect the parliament building and perhaps the people in it.”
The protests occurred during a nationwide strike protesting the austerity measure enacted by the government. The strike has ended all public transportation in the country, as well as services provided by public services like schools, hospitals, and government offices.
The Greek government has been attempting to get funds from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in response to the country’s debt crisis. Austerity measures were a requirement for getting such funds, and despite the protests, it’s considered unlikely that the government will give up its efforts to enact the measures