The European Central Bank had piled pressure on the Cyprus government earlier in the day, warning that it would halt all emergency funding to the country’s collapsing banks unless a ‚¬17bn bailout deal was agreed with Nicosia’s eurozone creditors by Monday. The threat of the ECB withdrawing support appeared to exacerbate the situation in Cyprus, where queues formed at ATMs despite government efforts to dispel what officials quickly described as “groundless rumour” about over what the rescue package would entail.
Laiki announced that it had scaled back withdrawals to ‚¬260 a day €“ from ‚¬800 – and its spokeswoman Aliki Sylianou was forced to deny widespread reports it had been closed. Cypriots were far from convinced, however, with huge queues forming outside local Laiki branches.
At branches in Nicosia, the divided capital, Cypriots queued for hours in the hope of withdrawing cash with lines frequently moving at a snail’s pace because of the inability of cash machines to dispense more than ‚¬40 at a time. “I’ve had to use my card ten times to get ‚¬400,” said Maria Gika, stuffing wads of cash into the pockets of her jeans before Laiki announced the ‚¬260 euro limit late on Thursday. “I’m entitled to withdraw ‚¬800 a day. It’s disgusting that I’m unable to access my own money.” 1