Bank Fire Kills 3 During Massive Protests in Greece

Three people died when a bank went up in flames Wednesday as tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets to protest harsh spending cuts aimed at saving the country from bankruptcy.

Rioter hurled paving stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with heavy use of tear gas.

The fire brigade said the bodies were found in the wreckage of a Marfin Bank branch, on the route of the march in the city center, The Associated Press reported.

"The moment we heard that three people died, the stock market extended losses," said Takis Zamanis, head trader at Beta Securities. "There is fear that reactions against the austerity measures will climax," Zamanis said.

The bank index stood at 1,652.68 points in Athens at 1251GMT. Three people were killed in a fire set by protesters at a bank branch in Athens, Reuters says.  

Today’s general strike, the third this year, follows Papandreou’s announcement of a second set of wage cuts for public workers, a three-year freeze on pensions and a second increase this year in sales taxes and the price of fuel, alcohol and tobacco in return for a bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Union groups have called the austerity measures "savage."

Protesters earlier clashed with helmeted and riot police as they tried to gain access to the parliament building and threw sticks and stones and chanted slogans when they were repulsed.

Police shot tear gas at other protesters who lobbed rocks and set trashcans on fire at the central bank building near the parliament, Bloomberg says.

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