ANXIOUS Cypriots queued outside Popular Bank ATM machines to withdraw their cash as fears rose that the country's banking meltdown will mean its second largest bank closes for ever. "It's all about cash now. Only a gambler will take cheques in this situation," said retired government official Phaedon Vassiliades as he withdrew money from the bank's ATM at Ledra Street, a tourist hotspot in the capital.
Behind the wheelchair-bound Vassiliades, a queue of anxious men and women waited for their turn to claw back as much money as they can.
"There are rumours that Laiki Bank (the Greek name for the Popular Bank) will never open again. I want to take out as much as I can," Vassiliades, who lost both his legs in a car accident a few years ago, told AFP.
"I have nearly 60,000 euros as savings in this bank and some credit societies. I don't know if I will ever get it back now. This is what I had and now it seems it is all gone."
AFP reporters saw similar queues of worried Popular Bank depositors across central Nicosia amid reports that the government, struggling to halt a banking meltdown since an EU bailout package was first announced, was considering merging it with the Bank of Cyprus, the island's largest.
On Thursday, Nicosia was fine-tuning a "Plan B" aimed at securing a eurozone bailout that the European Central Bank warned should be adopted by the weekend to avoid a banking meltdown on the debt-hit island.
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