Greek transport minister resigns over train crash; 36 dead, scores injured

Greek transport minister resigns over train crash; 36 dead, scores injured

GreeceAfter the Minister of Transport has resigned train accident In which at least 36 people were killed and hundreds were injured. Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said he felt it was his “duty” to do so “as a basic gesture of respect to the memory of those who were killed so unfairly”.

Rescuers searched through flattened, charred vehicles on Wednesday for survivors and bodies after a passenger train and a freight train crashed overnight in central Greece, killing at least 36 people. Scores were injured.

The cause of the accident near the Vale of Tempe, about 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens, was not immediately clear, but the stationmaster in the nearby town of Larissa was arrested on Wednesday. Police did not release his name.

The other two people have been detained for questioning. It is not clear what speed the two trains were traveling when they collided shortly before midnight on Tuesday, but state broadcaster ERT said it was more than 140 kilometers per hour (87 mph). Survivors said that the impact threw several passengers from the windows of the train cars. ERT quoted rescue workers as saying that they found the bodies of some of the victims 30–40 meters (100–130 ft) from the crash site.

Stefanos Gougakos said it felt like an explosion, while flames could be seen at the front of the train from his rear compartment. “The window panes were shattered and fell on us,” he told ERT. “My head hit the roof of the car with a blow. Some people started coming out of the windows because there was smoke in the car. The doors were locked but within minutes the train staff opened them and we got out.”

Several cars were derailed and at least three caught fire. On Wednesday, one cart lay on top of the shattered remains of the other two. “The temperature reached 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,372 Fahrenheit), making it even more difficult to identify the occupants,” said Vassilis Varthkoyanis, a spokesman for the fire service.

Officials said many of the 350 people on board the passenger train were students returning from a raucous carnival in Greece. This year was the first time the three-day festival, preceding Lent, was celebrated in full since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Visiting the crash site, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government should help identify and recover the injured. dead. Mitsotakis said, “I can guarantee one thing: we will find out the causes of this tragedy and we will do everything in our power so that something like this never happens again.”

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou began an official visit to Moldova to tour the scene, laying flowers next to the wreckage. The government declared three days of national mourning from Wednesday, while flags flew at half-mast outside all European Commission buildings in Brussels. Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the families of the dead in a message sent on his behalf by the Vatican’s secretary of state to the president of the Greek bishops’ conference. “The Pontiff sends the assurance of his prayers to all those affected by this tragedy,” the message said.

On Wednesday, rescue workers resorted to cranes and other heavy machinery and began moving large pieces of the trains, revealing more bodies and dismembered remains. Officials said the army had been contacted for assistance.

Rescue worker Lazaros Sarianidis told state broadcaster ERT that crews were “very carefully” trying to separate the steel, sheet metal and other material that was twisted together by the crash. “It will take a long time,” Sarianidis said.

Also read: Greece: 36 killed, many injured in passenger train collision

Kostas Agorastos, the regional governor of the Thessaly region, told Greece’s Sky television that the two trains collided at high speed. “Carriages one and two no longer exist, and the third has derailed,” he said.

The trains crashed just before the valley of Tempe, which separates the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. “There were several large pieces of steel,” said local resident Vassilis Polizos, who added that he was one of the first people at the scene. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

He said that as he arrived, panicked and disoriented people were pouring out of the rear cars of the train. “People, naturally, were scared, very scared,” he said.
“They were looking around, searching; they didn’t know where they were.”

According to Yannis Nitsos, president of the Greek Railroad Workers’ Union, eight rail workers were among those killed in the accident, including two drivers of a freight train and two drivers of a passenger train.

Greece’s fire service said some 66 people had been hospitalised, including six in intensive care. More than 200 people who were unharmed or slightly injured in the crash were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 mi) to the north. Police took names as they arrived in an attempt to track down anyone who might be missing.

At the scene of the crash, Greece’s Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, barely holding back tears, told reporters that authorities would investigate the cause of the accident “with all seriousness and full transparency”. “We will do everything we can to investigate the cause and leave nothing to be swept under the carpet,” Karamanlis said.

A teenage survivor, who did not give his name to reporters, said that just before the crash he felt strong braking and saw sparks, then suddenly stopped.
“Our train did not derail, but the ones in front derailed and broke,” he said.

He said the first car caught fire and he used a bag to break his car window, the fourth to escape.

Rail operator Hellenic Trains said about 350 passengers were on board a northbound passenger train bound for Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. Hellenic Trains is operated by Italy’s FS Group, which runs rail services in several European countries.

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