Feature

Greece: Surviving the winter without heat

How many Greeks will keel over this winter because they can’t pay their electricity bills?

Nikos XydakisKathimerini

How many Greeks will keel over this winter because they can’t pay their electricity bills? asked Nikos Xydakis. Last week, a 13-year-old girl in Thessaloniki died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the makeshift wood-burning stove her mother had lit to heat the home after their power was cut off. A few days later in the same city, a family’s house burned down due to candles they’d been using for light. The government quickly announced that it would “take steps” to get the power back on for the poor—but how will it determine who is in need? Simply looking at who had their heat turned off won’t do it. Last year, remember, thousands of people never turned on their central heating at all because of the cost, so “blankets of smoke from fireplaces and woodstoves covered almost every Greek city.” The Greek welfare state “was never much to boast about anyway,” even in good times, and now that international lenders have forced deep austerity cuts, it is worse than ever. All it’s really up to doing is handing out food to the growing ranks of the poor. Charities have been providing frontline services, but they’ve become overstretched, too. “What we need now is a national effort,” before more children die of cold.

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