Disasters & Accidents

Protests, strikes staged in Greece after at least 57 killed in train disaster

(Update: upgrades death toll, changes headline, lede, adds info, minor edits)

Athens, Mar 2 (EFE).- The Greek government was facing protests and strikes on Thursday amid allegations of negligence after at least 57 people were killed in a head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train near the town of Tempi earlier this week.

Rescuers worked through the night in search of traces of victims in the mangled wreckage of the trains at Tuesday’s crash site, just to the north of the city of Larissa.

The head of the forensic department of the city of Larissa, Rubini Leontari, told private radio Realfm that 14 corpses were brought to the morgue on Thursday, bringing the total number of victims to 57.

Hellenic fire service press spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said Thursday morning that the full death toll was likely higher and would be provided when the recovery operation and DNA identification were concluded.

The passenger train was carrying around 350 people, most of them university students according to local media reports, when it smashed head-on into the southbound freight train, which had two workers on board. The trains were traveling in opposite directions on the same track.

The collision caused severe damage to the front wagons of the passenger train, parts of which became engulfed by a ferocious fire.

Of the dozens of passengers injured in what is Greece’s deadliest rail disaster, around 57 are in hospital, including six in intensive care, local media said.

As Greece entered a period of mourning, many citizens have directed their ire at the government.

Protests outside the Athens headquarters of national rail operator Hellenic Train turned violent on Wednesday night as demonstrators lobbed Molotov cocktails and police fired tear gas in response.

Hellenic Train, owned by the Italian rail company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane since its privatization in 2017, operated the Athens to Thessaloniki passenger train that crashed in Tempi on Tuesday.

Rail unions and Athens metro workers called for a 24-hour strike on Thursday and accused successive Greek governments of demonstrating a “chronic lack of respect” towards the national rail network.

So far, the only person detained in connection with the crash is the stationmaster at Larissa, a 59-year-old man who has been charged with “serial negligent homicide”, causing bodily harm and disturbing the safety of transport traffic, crimes that are punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday said the collision was likely a result of “human error” and pledged an independent investigation into the incident.

The transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned following the disaster.

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, government spokesman Yannis Ikonomu acknowledged that the safety systems – such as electronic guidance or signaling – where the accident occurred were not functioning. EFE


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