Following a head-on collision between two trains in central Greece that claimed dozens of lives and injured dozens more, rescue personnel are looking for survivors and raising concerns about the nation’s subpar record of railroad safety.
Tuesday, just before midnight, in Tempi, close to the city of Larissa, a passenger train carrying more than 350 people crashed with a freight train, leaving dispersed carriages and heaps of wreckage in its aftermath. At least 38 people were killed in the collision. According to the Greek Fire Service, 57 persons were receiving medical attention for their wounds at hospitals, including six in intensive care units.
The nation’s transport minister announced his resignation on Wednesday, claiming that the legacy railroad network was “not up to 21st century standards.”
Many kilometers had passed before the fatal accident between the two trains, according to a report on Wednesday by the state-owned public broadcaster ERT. According to ERT, before colliding head-on with a freight train, the passenger train had altered lanes and shifted to cargo tracking.
The first carriages of the passenger train are the main focus of recovery attempts, according to the Greek Fire Service. There will probably be more fatalities.
Pictures on ERT showed huge smoke plumes spilling out of overturned carriages with a long queue of emergency vehicles nearby.
According to the chief of the intensive care unit (ICU) at a nearby hospital, where those with injuries are being treated, the majority of the accident’s passengers were young.
Greek police spokeswoman Constantia Dimoglidou said that DNA samples are currently being used in the identification process of the deceased who have been sent to the Larissa Medical Hospital.
Insufficient by 21st-century standards
The fatal accident sparked concerns about Greece’s railway infrastructure’s reliability.
According to a 2022 report from the European Union Agency for Railways, Greece has a poor track record for the safety of passengers traveling by train compared to other nations in Europe, recording the highest rate of railroad fatalities per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 among 28 countries on the continent.
In announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis stated that the country had “made every effort” over the previous three and a half years to improve this reality. However, he added, “It is a fact that we received the Greek railway system in a state that is not up to 21st-century standards.”
“Unfortunately, we were unable to stop such a terrible catastrophe despite our best efforts. And individually for me as well as for all of us, this is incredibly heavy.
“I resign as minister of transportation and infrastructure. It is what I believe I should do as a minimal expression of respect for the memory of those who passed away so unfairly.
The incident was “primarily” caused by “tragic human mistake,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated in a televised address after leaving the crash site.
“Dozens of our fellow citizens lost their lives there, in a horrendous train disaster, unprecedented in our country, most of them young people,” he remarked.
He stated that the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and its subsidiary ERGOSE have also submitted their resignations, praising the honorable decision made by the transport minister to step down.
Mitsotakis spoke with relatives of the deceased and the missing as he was visiting the Larissa hospital where several of the injured are receiving care.
“They questioned me, “Why? And they warned me to stop doing it. They need an honest response, he said.
The station manager at a train station in Larissa was detained on Wednesday as part of an initial inquiry, Greek police told AP. According to Greek police spokeswoman Constantia Dimoglidou, a 59-year-old man is being held in the city and is scheduled to appear before the prosecutor.
‘Fire was on all sides.’
As pictures of the collision’s damage started to surface, passengers ran to get away from the debris.
“As I moved closer, I could see where the crash was most severe. According to a commuter who spoke to AP, the entire train had bent 90 degrees, had fallen off the cliff, and half of it was hanging in the air. It was also on fire.
“There was anxiety… Stergios Minenis, 28, told the ap that the fire started right away and that as they turned over they were getting scorched.
“There was just a bang,” When we were able to evacuate, the (train) vehicle had already begun to turn and was now sideways,” a different male passenger told the Greek national channel ERT.
Another passenger recalled the ten terrifying seconds of fire, saying that it was difficult to see anything due to the smoke.
Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece and known for its festivals and active cultural life, was where the passenger train was headed from the nation’s capital Athens. The crash happened after a national celebration that took place over the weekend and finished with a holiday on Monday.
Vassilis Varthakogiannis, a spokesman for the Greek Fire Service, had said that 194 passengers had been transported safely to Thessaloniki and 20 individuals had been transported by bus to the city of Larissa.
The rescue operation involved at least 150 firefighters, including special rescue teams with 17 vehicles and 30 ambulances, stated Varthakogiannis. Later on Wednesday, he said that search and rescue efforts would go on all night.
A freight train and train IC 62, which had left Athens for Thessaloniki, collided head-on, according to a press release from the Greek railway firm Hellenic Train.
The primary Greek railroad firm, Hellenic Train, was purchased by Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 and is now entirely under Trenitalia’s management. The business offers both passenger and freight transportation services. Athens-Thessaloniki is the primary route on which daily connections are provided.
Following demands to protest the deadly crash, clashes between protestors and police broke out outside Hellenic Train’s offices in Athens on Wednesday.
As Greek government officials announced three days of mourning starting on Wednesday, condolences poured in from all over the world.