Greece said it will turn the power back on in households where people can’t afford to pay their electric bills following the carbon monoxide death of a girl whose had turned to using a makeshift stove, and after a fire caused by a candle in another home in the same circumstances.
Officials said they will set up a vetting system to sort out those who can pay but aren’t from those who can’t afford it because of their financial circumstances, and will direct the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to not turn off the the electricity of others struggling to pay their bills.
It could be a difficult task as more than 257,000 households are now without electricity in Greece during a crushing economic crisis in which the government has imposed big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on the orders of international lenders, and put property tax bills in utility bills under the threat of a power cut for non-payment.
With winter setting in, households without fireplaces or electricity are turning to often dangerous ways to keep warm, including faulty stoves and braziers, raising fears of another tragedy or people going cold in the dark.
After talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis said he he would ask municipal authorities to provide PPC with lists of poor families, noting that the authorities would then decide on a case-by-case basis which households are genuinely unable to pay their electricity bills and ensure they have power.
“We will not allow any of our fellow citizens to die of cold,” Maniatis said.
The government’s initiative came after a fire broke out in an apartment in the Kordelio suburb of Thessaloniki as the tenants, whose power supply was cut off in May 2012, had left candles unattended.
PPC issued a statement saying that the power board had not made the decision to cut the electricity but had been asked to do so by the owner of the apartment who had complained that the tenants were not paying their bills.