Athens: Greeks were hoarding cash and food amid mounting fears the economy could collapse, cracking open their wallets only to stock up on essentials and stripping supermarket shelves in the process.
Mothers, elderly men and university students were spotted pushing heavily overloaded trolleys or coming out of shops weighed down by bags of food, with essentials such as sugar, flour and pasta top of the list.
In the well-off area of Glyfada in Athens residents appeared to have panicked, thrusting everything from vast rolls of toilet paper to multiple packs of lentils into their carts.
“Most people are buying food now because they fear the worst,” said Andreas Koutras, a 51-year old who works in finance, referring to a referendum Sunday on Greece’s bailout which could seal its financial fate.
AFP photographs showed rows upon rows of empty shelves in supermarkets and shoppers said they were taking no chances, snapping up canned milk, chocolate and rice — anything non-perishable that could be stored.
Middle-aged toy shop assistant Marilena, who was praying for customers on what is usually the busiest shopping day of the week, said her family was buying “food, only food, nothing else. Only what’s necessary”.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged people to vote ‘No’, insisting that rejecting a bailout deal offered by the austerity-hit country’s international creditors will put it in a stronger negotiating position.
His right-hand man, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, has promised banks will re-open after the vote — but with so much uncertainty surrounding Greece’s future, many doubt him.
Nikos Archondis from the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PEA) told AFP “certain supermarkets are very concerned because they cannot forecast how the situation will evolve”.
Stocks of meat, cheeses, fruits and vegetables “risk running low in the following weeks”, he said.
Reports that medicines were also flying off the shelves were supported by pharmacist Yannis Triantaphilou.