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Greece

Trains collide in Greece, at least 36 killed, dozens injured

Trains collide in Greece, at least 36 killed, dozens injured
Smoke rises from train cars after a collision near Larissa city, Greece, 01 March 2023. The two trains – a passenger train travelling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki, and a cargo train from Thessaloniki to Larissa, collided head-on outside the central Greek city, Konstantinos Agorastos, the governor of the Thessaly region told local media. Dozens of people have been killed and at least 85 injured, and 250 passengers were evacuated safely to Thessaloniki on buses. EPA-EFE/ACHILLEAS CHIRAS

LARISSA, Greece, March 1 (Reuters) - A passenger train and a cargo train collided head-on in Greece on Tuesday night, killing at least 36 people and injuring dozens as the country's deadliest rail crash in living memory threw entire carriages off the tracks.

Many of the victims were thought to be university students on their way back from a long holiday weekend. The death toll was expected to rise further, officials said.

“There was panic … the fire was immediate, as we were turning over we were being burned, fire was right and left,” said Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old passenger who jumped to safety from the wreckage.

A passenger who escaped from the fifth carriage told Skai TV: “Windows were being smashed and people were screaming … One of the windows caved in from the impact of iron from the other train.”

Cranes lifted derailed passenger carriages in the morning, as rescuers continued to scour through the smouldering mangled mass of steel. One carriage stood on its side at almost 90 degrees from the rest of the wrecked train, with others tilting precariously.

The local station master, in charge of signalling, has been arrested, a police official said, as investigators tried to find out why the two trains had been on the same track.

“It’s an unthinkable tragedy. Our thoughts today are with the relatives of the victims,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the site of the crash, looking shattered.

“One thing I can guarantee; we will find out the causes of this tragedy and do anything in our power for it never to happen again.”

The crash occurred as the passenger train that was headed to the northern Greece city of Thessaloniki from the capital Athens emerged from a tunnel near the town of Larissa.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said the two trains had been running towards each other on the same track “for many kilometres” before the crash.

 

‘MUM, I’M HURT’

The passenger train was carrying 342 travellers and 10 crew, while two crew were on the cargo train, according to Hellenic Train data.

Sixty-six of those injured were hospitalised, six of whom in intensive care, a fire brigade official said.

Survivors were evacuated to Thessaloniki, where one woman ran to embrace her daughter as she disembarked from a bus with other survivors.

“Mum don’t, I’m hurt,” the daughter said. Another woman, who was waiting there, said her child was not picking up the phone.

The head of the emergency unit in Larissa hospital, Apostolos Komnos, said most of the dead were young people, in their 20s.

The government declared three days of national mourning, from Wednesday to Friday, with flags flying at half-mast in a tribute to the victims of the crash.

President Katerina Sakellaropoulou cut short a visit to Moldova to return to Greece.

“Even at this moment, a life-saving operation is going on to help those who are on this death train,” she told a news conference in the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

 

“TRAGEDY”

ERT state TV showed one crew carrying what was thought to be a victim, covered in a white sheet, to an ambulance.

Fire brigade spokesperson Vassilis Varthakogiannis said the evacuation of passengers took place in “difficult conditions given the severity of the collision of the two trains.

“We are living through a tragedy. We are pulling out people alive, injured…there are dead,” he said.

The cargo train had been travelling from Thessaloniki to Larissa. Local media said the train left Athens around 7.30 pm (0530 GMT). The fire brigade said it was informed of the accident shortly before midnight.

Greece sold railway operator TRAINOSE to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 as part of its international bailout programme, expecting hundreds of millions of euros to be invested in rail infrastructure in the coming years.

According to the Italian company’s website, it is the main provider of rail transport for passengers and freight in Greece and runs 342 passenger and commercial routes a day.

Greece’s ageing railway system is in need of modernising, with many trains travelling on single tracks and signalling and automatic control systems still to be installed in many areas.

(Reporting by Stamos Proussalis, Karolina Tagaris, Renee Maltezou, Angeliki Koutantou, Michele Kambas, Giannis Floulis; Writing by Ingrid Melander, Michael Perry; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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