Tens of thousands strike in Greece over fatal train tragedy
(Update: changes headline, lede, add info on strike)
Athens, Mar 16 (EFE).- A 24-hour general strike on Thursday brought Greece to a standstill as tens of thousands of people took to the streets again to condemn the government over the train accident that killed 57 people last month.
Staff on public transport, in public hospitals and in many schools, as well as port workers and cab drivers joined the second strike since the accident, amid mounting anger in the country.
In Athens, some 28,000 people, according to the police, gathered in front of the Greek Parliament to protest against the conservative government, whom they accuse of delaying the installation of safety systems.
“There was already a climate of discontent and tension that has now reached its peak”, Vasiliki, a 32-year-old teacher, told EFE, describing the policies adopted by recent governments in the transport sector as “criminal”.
Tens of thousands of people also demonstrated in more than 70 Greek cities.
The Athens protest saw separate altercations, when groups of demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at riot police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.
Greece’s train operator has announced a 42,000 euros ($44,623) compensation plan for each family affected by the deadly train collision.
Injured passengers will receive 5,000 euros each and those who were hospitalized as a result of the crash will be handed 10,000 euros, Greece’s rail operator said in a statement.
The company added that the compensation did not amount “in any way to an acceptance of responsibility by the company” for the accident that took place on February 28.
The incident occurred in Tempi when a northbound passenger train carrying 350 people, many of them young students, and a southbound freight train collided while traveling in opposite directions on the same track on the Athens-Thessaloniki line.
The government of the conservative prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis initially said the accident was down to human error. Four railroad employees have been charged so far, including the station manager who allowed the two trains onto the same track.
Amid mounting pressure, Mitsotakis eventually apologized and acknowledged deficient safety systems on much of the railway network, including the section where the accident occurred.
Days after the accident, it emerged that the Greek government had ignored warnings raised by the opposition and trade unions about safety problems on the railway network weeks before the tragedy. EFE