This is the fiery face of Greece’s financial crisis.
A small-business owner, unable to pay off bank loans that have plagued him for months, set himself on fire yesterday -- his third attempt, authorities said.
The unidentified 56-year-old went to a Piraeus Bank branch in Thessaloniki in northern Greece and tried to renegotiate payments on loans he had taken out on his home and failing business, police said.
When bank officials refused, the man went outside, doused himself with gasoline from a can and set his clothing on fire -- as he shouted that he was in debt.
Police rushed to the scene to put out the blaze with fire extinguishers and saved his life.
He was hospitalized with chest burns, and is expected to survive, authorities said.
Authorities said it was the third time he set himself on fire, including once 15 months ago when he also suffered burns, after complaining that he couldn’t pay off his outstanding loans.
Greece’s government, seeking its own loans from the European Union, has imposed drastic cost-cutting measures, which in turn triggered business failures, mounting unemployment and violent street protests.
European finance ministers, meeting in Wroclaw, Poland, yesterday, put off until October a decision about whether to go ahead with another huge loan to Greece.
Uncertainty about whether Greece will default on its outstanding loans has roiled world stock markets for months.