Bloomberg News

Rioters Set Fire to 45 Buildings in Athens Austerity Protest

February 14, 2012

(Updates with damage cost estimate in third paragraph, amount of smashed stone and marble in sixth.)

Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Rioters set fire to as many as 45 buildings during violent street protests against government austerity measures in central Athens late yesterday and overnight, Greek police said.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos won parliamentary approval early today for the spending cuts needed to secure an international bailout of 130 billion euros ($172 billion). The measures equal about 7 percent of gross domestic product over three years and include a debt swap that would shave 100 billion euros off more than 200 billion euros of privately held debt. Greece was granted its first aid package of 110 billion euros in May 2010.

A total of 170 businesses in Athens suffered attacks during the protests, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry said today in a statement on its website. Initial estimates put the cost of damage to buildings and equipment as well as from theft at tens of millions of euros, the chamber said.

Seventeen banks, four bookstores, five department stores and shopping malls and 70 clothing and footware shops were among businesses that suffered damage, the Athens-based association said.

Several national heritage sites were burned including a neoclassical building from 1870-1881, designed by German architect Ernst Ziller, which was gutted by fire, according to an e-mailed statement from the Athens City Hall.

Alpha Bank Blaze

The ground floor of an Art Deco building dating from the 1920s that was the site of a branch of Alpha Bank SA was completely destroyed by fire. Athens City cleaning services collected 40 metric tons of broken marble and stone that rioters hacked from streets and sidewalks.

Police arrested the 67 people for attacking security forces with gasoline bombs and stones and damaging buildings and shops as well as for looting. Another 75 people were detained for questioning, according to a statement posted today on the Greek police website.

Tear gas and flash grenades were used to repel rioters. A total of 106 police officers were injured during the protests, 68 of whom required hospital treatment, according to the statement. More than 200 fire fighters and 80 fire trucks were deployed across Athens to tackle the blazes, the Greek Fire Service said in a separate statement.

Other buildings set ablaze in central Athens included a Starbucks cafe. Greek clothing retailer Sprider Stores SA said in an e-mailed statement today its downtown Athens offices as well as warehouses in the same building were damaged by fire.

--Editors: Leon Mangasarian, James Kraus.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tugwell in Athens at ptugwell1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerrold Colten at jcolten@bloomberg.net


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