A protest in Athens on March 2, 2023, over Tuesday's train crash that claimed at least 42 lives, according to local media reports. Protesters criticize the Greek government for the poor condition of the railway infrastructure, which they say contributed to the accident.
Athens – The death toll from Tuesday's train crash in Greece has risen to 46, a fire department spokesman said today, according to local media. According to him, seven charred bodies were found in the rubble this morning. But the daily Kathimerini recalled that on Wednesday there was uncertainty about the number of dead. After the accident, several wagons caught fire, and the identification of some victims is thus difficult. Several people are still missing, DPA reported. Because of the accident on Wednesday, people protested the poor condition of Greek railways, whose employees are on strike today for the same reason. They were also joined by employees of the Athens Metro.
Photo gallery: Train crash in Greece
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Demonstrations took place on Wednesday evening in Athens, Thessaloniki and in the city of Larisa, where a passenger train collided head-on with a freight train before midnight on Tuesday. Protesters criticize the Greek government for the poor condition of the railway infrastructure, which they say contributed to the accident. According to the head of the train drivers' association, even on the main line between Athens and Thessaloniki, where the accident happened, there is no electronic warning system. Also, a representative of the railway unions told Kathimerini daily that the danger signals do not work between Athens and Thessaloniki.
While most of the demonstrators protested peacefully, some sat on the road with candles and held a piet for the victims of the accident, later in the evening the radical groups clashed with the police, who used tear gas against them. Demonstrations took place in front of the parliament and the headquarters of Hellenic Train, which operates passenger and freight rail transport in Greece.
Railway employees in Greece announced a 24-hour strike today. They were joined by Athens Metro employees who complain about the same problems – lack of staff and outdated technology. But one of the three metro lines is working normally.
The cause of Tuesday's accident is under investigation, apparently human error. Already on Wednesday, the police detained the head of the station in Larisa, who, according to some media, admitted to the mistake and will appear before a judge today. In addition to helping the survivors, the Greek government promised to thoroughly investigate the accident and take measures to prevent anything similar from happening again. Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who resigned on Wednesday, also accepted responsibility for the state of Greek railways. According to the AP, he also said he was trying “everything possible” to improve the rail system, which he said was not in a state “fit for the 21st century”.
The identification of the victims is still ongoing, also with the help of DNA analysis and samples from relatives, as well as search and rescue operations, the number of victims may thus increase further. “In one of the wagons, the fire had a particularly high temperature, 1,300 degrees Celsius,” a spokesman for the fire brigade said on Wednesday about the difficulty of the rescue work in the first hours after the accident.
There were 342 passengers and ten crew members in the passenger train, and two people in the freight train. Among the victims are many young people. Of the seven dozen hospitalized, 15 have been discharged, six injured are in intensive care units.
The new Greek transport minister apologized to the families of the victims for Tuesday's accident
The new Greek transport minister, Jorgos Gerapetritis, who took office today, apologized to the families of the victims of Tuesday's train accident. According to the newspaper, Kathimerini also said that the government would form a commission of experts to thoroughly investigate the causes of the train crash. A spokesman for the Greek government confirmed today that the number of victims so far is 46, and said that it was still unclear how many people were missing. The station master, who was arrested on Wednesday, admitted part of the blame before the judge today, but according to his lawyer, others are also responsible, due to a poorly functioning early warning system.
“A great tragedy has happened, that's why I first of all want to apologize to the families who lost their loved ones. Self-criticism of the entire political system and the state is also in order,” Gerapetritis told reporters. “Everything will be thoroughly investigated,” he added, adding that an expert commission would be established to transparently investigate the reasons for the crash and the long-term “abnormality and passivity”. , which, according to trade unionists, contributed to Tuesday's head-on collision between a freight train and a passenger train carrying 350 people. A large number of them were university students.
Already on Wednesday, the head of the station in the city of Larisa, where the accident happened, was arrested. Several representatives of the Hellenic Train railway company identified him as the main person responsible for the accident during questioning, the daily Kathimerini reported.
The 59-year-old chief, whose name the media has not disclosed, appeared before a local judge today. According to a government spokesman, he admitted to making a tragic mistake that caused two trains to run against each other on the same track. According to the Kathimerini newspaper, however, he also said that the signaling had failed. An Al Jazeera TV reporter in Larisa described that red warning lights are often triggered even when there is no danger, which is why some train drivers and station masters ignore them. This could also be the case in the accident that happened before midnight on Tuesday.
The AP agency also quoted retired Greek train driver Nikos Tsuridis, according to whom it is not only the foreman who is to blame, but also the authorities and the government, which did not ensure modernizing the early warning system.
According to local media, the head of the Larisa station will probably be charged with manslaughter and bodily harm due to negligence, as well as endangering traffic safety. According to a recent amendment to the law, he faces ten years in prison to life imprisonment, the daily Kathimerini wrote today. He also wrote that the chief had only been in this position for a few months.
Tuesday's train collision claimed at least 46 lives and six dozen injured remain in the hospital. A Greek government spokesman told reporters today that he could not confirm how many people were on the passenger train. Although Hellenic Train reported on Wednesday that there were 342 passengers. “Some people were able to board at the last minute without a pre-purchased ticket,” a government spokesman said.