Panic in Greece as vote looms

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

GREECE of­fi­cially be­came the first de­vel­oped coun­try in the world to go into ar­rears and now looks set to be head­ing to a Grexit af­ter miss­ing a pay­ment dead­line to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund.

The last coun­try to be in this po­si­tion was Zim­babwe in 2001 and more than a decade on it is still a pariah on world money mar­kets.

The first im­me­di­ate ef­fect of the de­fault was the loss of ac­cess to more than € 10 bil­lion ($ A14.4 bil­lion) to re­cap­i­talise banks.

Where that leaves the banks, most of which have re­mained shut since last week­end, is not clear. About 1000 banks did open briefly yesterday to as­sist pen­sion­ers who tra­di­tion­ally do not use ATM bank cards, and al­lowed them to with­draw € 120 each, dou­ble the daily cap placed on other savers through ATMs.

But some Greek is­lands have al­ready re­ported they have run out of cash flows and nu­mer­ous busi­nesses across the coun­try have al­ready be­gun to refuse credit cards with “cash only” signs go­ing up on shop win­dows.

Some petrol sta­tions in Athens closed four hours early as stocks ran low due to overde­mand from pan­icked cit­i­zens but many were ex­pect­ing tanker de­liv­er­ies to­day.

But the panic was still ev­i­dent at ATMs with seem­ingly the en­tire pop­u­la­tion still try­ing to stock up on cash with queues snaking around the block in Athens at most ma­chines.

The only bright spot for the rest of Europe was that the value of the euro did not change much against other cur­ren­cies af­ter the de­fault, sug­gest­ing it was now a lit­tle more ro­bust than pre­vi­ously thought.

Just hours be­fore the mid­night de­fault dead­line, the Greeks made a last- ditch ef­fort to main­tain the bailout pro­gram it has re­lied on for five years, with the move re­jected by the eu­ro­zone as sim­ply too lit­tle, too late.

Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alex Tsipras had al­ready made it clear his Gov­ern­ment would not be pay­ing the € 1.6 bil­lion re­pay­ment re­quired to keep the bailout pack­age, and his 11th- hour ap­peal for a stall on the de­fault was seen more as an at­tempt to again con­vince his peo­ple Europe was at fault for the cri­sis.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel em­pha­sised that no dis­cus­sions about Greece could hap­pen be­fore this Sun­day’s ref­er­en­dum, where Greek vot­ers are to be asked yes or no to re­main­ing in the eu­ro­zone.

“Be­fore the planned ref­er­en­dum is car­ried out, we will not ne­go­ti­ate over any­thing new,” she said yesterday.

The vote is be­ing seen as yet another step by Greece to leave the EU; Rus­sia has al­ready said it is ready to form an al­liance with Greece and fi­nan­cially as­sist the na­tion.

One of the found­ing fathers of the euro, for­mer Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank chief Ot­mar Iss­ing, said Greece had played about with the fate of its peo­ple and the cri­sis now was clearly its own fault. THESE girls found a re­fresh­ing way to beat the heat as soar­ing tem­per­a­tures swept across Europe.

Ten­nis play­ers at Wim­ble­don, fast­ing Mus­lims and ail­ing re­li­gious pil­grims in Lour­des were among those most at risk as the blast of the ma­jor heat­wave spread up through the con­ti­nent.

With tem­per­a­tures hit­ting 35C in Lon­don, ten­nis play­ers and fans were set for a very sticky Wim­ble­don, with some re­ports say­ing play could be sus­pended if tem­per­a­tures soared too high.

Eng­land de­clared a level 2 health alert, and author­i­ties raised par­tic­u­lar con­cern for Mus­lims fast­ing dur­ing day­light hours for Ramadan. Bri­tain’s Net­work Rail or­dered trains to go slow, fear­ful that rail­way tracks would buckle in the heat.

Mean­while in France, where ther­mome­ters were set to reach al­most 40C, the Gov­ern­ment called for air­con­di­tioned public build­ings to al­low the public in for respite from the heat.

In Lour­des, a hotspot for mil­lions of re­li­gious pil­grims hop­ing to be cured of ill­nesses, author­i­ties can­celled a daily pro­ces­sion through the main es­planade, shift­ing the cer­e­mony un­der­ground.

From Hol­land to Italy, gov­ern­ments warned of risks to older peo­ple, young chil­dren and those with se­ri­ous ill­nesses.

For a con­ti­nent un­ac­cus­tomed to such warmth, the threats go be­yond em­bar­rass­ing wet patches on shirts and ter­ri­ble body odour on com­muter trains.

A 2003 heat­wave caused 20,000 deaths above the nor­mal death rate across Europe.

COLD COM­FORTS: Girls frolic in a Lon­don foun­tain while cold treats were pop­u­lar in Rome ( be­low).

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