Freezing and dying in Greece as people cannot afford heating oil & natural gas

Posted by in Economy, Society

The tragedy in Kavala where three children lost their lives in a house fire reached the other side of the big river, the Atlantic Ocean. Washington Post published an article on the issue, stressing the most striking aspect of the story: that these children had not be dead today, if the heating oil prices weren’t that high. The weekend at the grandparents’ home plunged the family of ten children and a whole village in mourning when the fire in the wooden stove got out of control. The house had central heating oil system, but it was turned off this winter due to heating oil prices at 1.40-1.50 euro per liter.

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Three children, aged 5, 7 and 15, found a horrible death when a fire caused by a wooden stove burned down a home in Mesoropi village, near the city of Kavala in Northern Greece, on Saturday. Together with their parents the children were visiting the home of their grandparents. The blaze stared in the stove and quickly engulfed the wooden house. The roof collapsed on two of the youngest victims while the older brother died of smoke inhalation where he entered the house in an attempt to rescue them.

Washington Post: In tragedy related to Greece’s financial crisis, 3 young brothers dead in house fire

In a tragedy related to Greece’s financial crisis, three children died in a northern village Saturday when a fire burned down the home of their grandparents, who were using a wooden stove because heating oil prices have soared, officials and residents said.

“They had oil heating. They put on a stove this year, as many other villagers did, because of the crisis. Things are very tight,” said Vangelis Bozoudis, a resident of Mesoropi.

The price of heating oil has soared this year in Greece. Until last spring, heating oil was sold at a much lower price than diesel fuel, but, because a lot of heating oil was used illegally as diesel fuel to circumvent the higher price, the government decided to harmonize the prices.

As a result, the cost of heating oil has increased almost 40 percent, leaving many Greek families — whose incomes have already taken a big hit from years of recession, fiscal austerity and soaring unemployment — no option but to switch to cheaper forms of heating.

Bozoudis and other villagers of Mesoropi, contacted by phone, said that this incident would not have happened if the family still used heating oil and wondered how many more accidents like that would take place across the country. (full article Washington Post)

It’s not only the heating oil prices that leave Greeks exposed to a freezing winter life. The tax on natural gas for heating was increased last year too, reaching levels that Greeks can hardly afford this year.

In a neighborhood building with autonomus natural gas system, three families are heating with electric stoves as they cannot afford to pay bills of 100-150 euro per winter month for heating alone. Families with babies, young children or grandparents of over 85 years old.

A friend was telling me that the management of a multi-building where he lives in downtown Athens will not operate the central natural gas system because apartment owners and tenants do not pay even 10 euro for building maintenance costs during the summer months.

Saving on heating cost: Lucky with a fire place heating the living room and the office. 3-4 hours wood fire, one hour heating with natural gas on very cold days. Hve still to see, if  the plan will work.

Another friend was telling me, that for a second winter she will use the air-conditioner to heat the apartment, because no heating oil was bought by the building management.

More or less the same is the situation among my other friends and neighbors in my (former) middle-class social circle. Wages and pensions cuts and unemployment have indeed deteriorated our former living standards so sharply within one year, that one can hardly imagine, if one does not live here.

Many who sought alternative solutions with air-conditioners or electric heaters do not dare to calculate how much their electricity bill will be charged with, if they will operate them enough to ‘melt’ their frozen feet and hands.

Lucky are the ones, who have a fire place and can heat at least one room for several hours.

 

PS can you imagine natural gas and heating oil could be free of charge next winter and we would have to sell all electric heaters we bought this year?