|Angry depositors scramble to retrieve life savings before Cyprus crumbles
Anxious Cypriots queued outside Popular Bank ATM machines today to withdraw their cash as fears heightened that the island’s banking meltdown will mean its second largest bank closes for ever.
“It’s all about cash now. Only a gambler will take checks in this situation,’’ said retired government official Phaedon Vassiliades as he withdrew money from the bank's ATM at Ledra Street, a tourist hotspot in the capital, AFP reports.
Behind the Vassiliades, who was on a wheelchair, a queue of worried men and women waited for their turn to claw back as much money as they can.
“There are rumors that Laiki Bank [the Greek name for the Popular Bank] will never open again. I want to take out as much as I can,’’ said Vassiliades, who lost both his legs in a car accident a few years ago. “I have nearly 60,000 euros as savings in this bank and some credit societies. I don't know if I will ever get it back now. This is what I had and now it seems it is all gone.’’
AFP reporters saw similar queues of worried Popular Bank depositors across central Nicosia amid reports that the government, struggling to halt a banking meltdown since an EU bailout package was first announced, was considering merging it with the Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest.
Popular Bank savers expressed total distrust in the government efforts.
“Cyprus is sinking. They [the EU and the international community] are prepared to let Cyprus sink,’’ said Gautam Kapoor, a Briton working for a Greek metals company, as he waited outside the Popular Bank ATM in central Nicosia.
“The markets have already factored in the Cyprus debacle. Nobody is going to have trust in Cyprus again. I just want to withdraw cash as much as possible as even fuel stations and departmental stores are now accepting only cash.’’
The manageress of a nearby fuel station confirmed that only cash mattered now.
“I am helpless. I have to pay cash to my fuel supplier so I'm accepting only cash,'' Photoulla Zantis told AFP.