Athens, Mar 5 (EFE).- Violent protests erupted outside the parliament building in Athens on Sunday amid a public outcry over a rail disaster that last week claimed the lives of 57 people.
The demonstrations came after Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis earlier in the day released a statement on his official Facebook page in which he apologized to the country and the relatives of the victims of the tragedy.
“We cannot, will not and should not hide behind human error,” the conservative prime minister wrote, having earlier attributed the head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train just north of the city of Larissa late last Tuesday to just that.
He said that it should not be possible in Greece nowadays for two trains to be traveling in opposite directions on the same track without it being noticed.
On Sunday, in central Athens, protesters held aloft signs emblazoned with slogans such as “your policies cost lives,” while others directed chants at the government, accusing it of “murder.”
Some protesters set fire to trash cans and launched fireworks, local media said, while police fired tear gas at a smaller group of leftist demonstrators that attempted to make their way to the offices of Hellenic Train, Greece’s train operator.
While Hellenic Train, owned by Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, operates the trains in Greece the country’s railway infrastructure is managed by Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE), which belongs to the Greek government.
Sunday marked Greece’s fifth consecutive day of protest since the disaster amid simmering tensions and allegations of state neglect.
The violent collision occurred just before midnight on Tuesday in Tempi when the northbound passenger train carrying 350 people and the southbound freight train carrying two smashed into one another while traveling in opposite directions on the same track on the Athens-Thessaloniki line.
The station master in Larissa, charged with multiple counts of negligent manslaughter, has admitted putting the trains on the same track.
While Greece comes to terms with the human cost of its worst-ever rail disaster, the tragedy will also likely entail a political one for the PM’s New Democracy party when the voters head to the polls for a general election in the first half of this year. EFE