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Updated: February 19, 2010 17:21 IST

Fuel shortage hits Greece amid strikes

AP
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A man stands in front of a bank and reads newspaper headlines about Greece's financial crisis, in central Athens on Thursday. Photo: AP.
A man stands in front of a bank and reads newspaper headlines about Greece's financial crisis, in central Athens on Thursday. Photo: AP.

Greek drivers queued for gas at the few stations still open on Friday as a nearly week-long customs strike protesting government austerity measures left many pumps running dry, while taxi drivers stayed off the streets in a 24-hour walkout.

Customs workers initially walked off the job for three days from Tuesday to protest salary freezes and cuts in bonuses and stipends. But on Thursday, their union declared three 48-hour rolling strikes that will keep customs offices shut through next Wednesday, when Greek workers across the country will hold a general strike.

The customs walkout has hampered imports and exports, but the supply of fuel has been the most affected. Many gas stations in Athens had run out of all fuel, while those that were still open were rationing the amount of gas given to each driver, with some imposing a euro20 ($27) limit per customer. Traffic policemen were posted at some gas stations in Athens as cars queued for hundreds of meters (yards).

Taxi drivers also held a 24-hour strike on Friday, protesting parts of the austerity package that increased fuel tax and will force them to issue receipts.

Greek unions have been opposing the new Socialist government’s harsh austerity measures, which were imposed in an effort to pull the country out of its worst debt crisis in decades - one that has seen its deficit swell to a massive 12.7 percent of economic output.

European finance ministers warned Athens this week that it would have to impose even tougher budget cuts if its current measures don’t manage to reduce the deficit to 8.7 percent this year. Athens has until March 16 to report back to the EU on its progress.

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