Three people died in a fire set by Greek protesters in central Athens in Marfin Popular Bank during a protest march against government austerity measures, the fire brigade said. (see the video)
“We have found three dead people in the building that is on fire,” it said in a statement.
Masked youths threw petrol bombs that set a commercial building on fire, and shouted “Murderers” and “Burn the parliament,” as the public anger overflowed at the government’s plans for painful wage and pension cutbacks.
A giant plume of dark grey smoke rose over the central Stadiou Avenue, where the bank building was burning. The fire brigade was evacuating people trapped on balconies.
Police used stun grenades and tear gas in clashes with protesters Wednesday as tens of thousands of outraged Greeks took to the streets against harsh new spending cuts aimed at saving their country from bankruptcy.
Running street battles broke out in the Greek capital, where demonstrators chanting “thieves, thieves” attempted to break through a riot police cordon guarding Parliament and chased the ceremonial guards away from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the building.
The demonstrations in Athens were some of the largest in recent years, with some estimates putting the crowd at about 60,000 people. Government officials put the number at above 25,000. Violence also broke out in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where another 20,000 people marched through the city centre, with youths smashing windows of stores and fast food restaurants.
The marches came amid a 24-hour nationwide general strike that grounded all flights to and from Greece, shut down ports, schools and government services and left hospitals working with emergency medical staff. The Acropolis and all other ancient sites were closed, while journalists also walked off the job, suspending television and radio news broadcasts.
Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday announced draconian austerity measures, including cuts in salaries and pensions for civil servants, and another round of consumer tax increases, to pull his heavily indebted country away from the brink of default.
(source: the globeand mail)