Train collision near the Greek city of Larisa, March 1, 2023.
Athens – At least 36 people were killed and more than seven dozen injured when a passenger train carrying 350 people collided with a freight train late on Tuesday near the Greek city of Larisa. Six people are in intensive care units in hospitals. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it had no information that Czech citizens were among the victims or injured. It is the most tragic railway accident in Greece in several decades. The Greek government has declared three days of national mourning from today, President Katerina Sakellaropoulos returned early from a trip to Moldova due to the tragedy and visited the scene this afternoon as did Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The local media informs about it.
Photogallery: Train crash in Greece
The accident happened near the city of Larisa in the central part of the country, where shortly before midnight CET, a passenger train heading from Athens to Thessaloniki collided at high speed with a freight train traveling from Thessaloniki to Larisa. Several wagons derailed and at least three caught fire. The impact was so strong that some passengers flew out the windows, survivors told local media. Among the passengers were many students returning from carnival celebrations.
The Greek media initially reported as many as 38 victims, but later specified that there are 36 confirmed deaths so far. Rescuers found two unconscious people in the wrecked wagon, whom they have not yet been able to reach. “In one of the wagons, the fire had a particularly high temperature, 1,300 degrees Celsius,” said a spokesman for the fire department, adding that the fire made it difficult to identify the victims. The death toll is expected to rise, with several more people trapped in the first carriages of the passenger train.
In response to the accident, Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis announced his resignation today, saying he was stepping down from the ministerial post to show respect for the memory of the victims, adding that he took full responsibility for the mistakes of the Greek state.
There were 342 passengers and ten crew members in the passenger train, and two people in the freight train. Hellenic Train, the operator of both trains, canceled all services from 12:00 local time today. Hellenic Train is the largest railway operator in Greece and since 2017 is owned by the Italian national carrier Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane.
The cause of the accident is under investigation. The police interviewed several people and eventually arrested the 59-year-old station master in Larisa, whom they suspect of negligence that caused the trains to run against each other on the same track. The man initially denied guilt, but later admitted to his mistake. ERT television previously quoted the head of the train drivers' association, according to which the electronic system to warn of danger does not work on the track. “Nothing works, everything is done manually. We are in 'manual mode' on the Athens-Thessalonica line,” he said. The Reuters agency also wrote that the Greek railway system needs modernisation, many connections run on a single-track line and in many places there are still no automatic signaling and control systems.
“We heard a huge bang. It was a terrible ten seconds. They overturned we were in the carriage until we fell on our side,” described 28-year-old passenger Sterjos Minenis. Panic and chaos broke out at once. “Fire, hanging cables, broken windows, people screaming, people trapped,” Minenis said.
According to the fire department spokesman, the evacuation of passengers took place in very difficult conditions, the wagons derailed on a slight slope and due to several burning wagons, the temperature was very high. The Skai station broadcast footageof derailed and badly damaged carriages. Rescuers with flashlights on their foreheads pulled pieces of metal from the cars in the thick smoke and searched for trapped people, AP reported. 150 firefighters and about 40 ambulances responded to the scene.
Minister of Health Thanos Plevris visited the wounded in hospitals. Prime Minister Mitsotakis arrived at the scene of the accident, who promised to provide assistance to the injured and survivors as well as a thorough investigation of the accident. “We will do everything to ensure that something like this never happens again,” Mitsotakis also said.
Alexis Tsipras from the left-wing group SYRIZA and the head of the opposition PASOK party Nikos Andrulakis also visited the place of the train collision.
< p>Many countries expressed their condolences to Greece, including Turkey, Portugal, Britain, Austria, Italy and Germany. “My thoughts are with the Greek people after this terrible train accident that claimed so many lives last night in Larissa. All of Europe mourns with you. I also wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter. French President Emmanuel Macron made a similar statement. “My thoughts go out to the families of the victims of the terrible accident that happened last night in Larissa. France stands by the Greeks,” Macron wrote on Twitter.< /p>