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Greek train crash: dozens dead, injured, station master arrested in head-on collision

At least 43 people were killed and about 85 injured when a passenger train carrying hundreds of people, including many university students returning from vacation, crashed at high speed into a burning shipwreck in northern Greece, officials said. said Wednesday. Multiple cars derailed and at least three were set ablaze after a passenger train collided near the town of Tempe at midnight Tuesday as it emerged from a highway underpass. erupted, turning the carriage into a crumpled, twisted iron knot.

Greek police said the manager of the Larissa central railway station was arrested Wednesday in connection with the head-on collision. Two others of him were detained for questioning.

Greece’s Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis has resigned, saying he resigned in the wake of the tragedy “as a fundamental sign of honoring the memory of those who died unjustly”, adding that he “does what he can to honor the memory of the victims”. the bare minimum,” he said. victims,” ​​he said on live television. He said he was responsible for “longstanding failures” in the country’s transport network.

Karamanlis said he had made “every effort” to improve the rail system, which was “unfit for the 21st century”.

greek train crash
Smoke rises from a train as firefighters and rescue workers work after a crash near Tempe in northern Greece early on March 1, 2023. A freight train collided with a passenger train about 235 miles north of Athens, derailing several carriages.

Vagelis Kusiolus / AP

Several passengers flew out of ceilings and windows in the impact just before midnight on Tuesday.

“The impact hit my head on the roof of the carriage,” Stefanos Gogakos, who was in the rear carriage, told state broadcaster ERT. He said the window shattered and glass rained down on riders.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the collision between a passenger and freight train “a horrific railway accident unprecedented in our country” and promised a full and independent investigation.

He said the crash appeared to be “largely due to tragic human error.”

Fire brigade spokesman Vassilis Varsakogianis said at Wednesday’s briefing that the extreme heat of the erupting fire made it difficult to identify bodies, especially from the first carriages of passenger trains. He said the death toll was likely to rise.

“The temperatures were particularly hot, reaching 1,300 degrees Celsius (about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit),” Vartakogiannis told journalists.

“A 59-year-old station master has been arrested. Greek government spokesman Yannis Economou said two trains were running on the same track in opposite directions for “several kilometers”.

Rescue teams illuminated the scene with floodlights before dawn Wednesday, frantically searching the twisting smoky remnants for survivors.

After sunrise they turned to the heavy equipment brought in and started moving the large parts of the train. His supposed third carriage of the passenger train lay on top of the crumpled wreckage of his first two carriages, to the attention of paramedics.

AFP quoted Greece’s emergency services as having responded with about 150 firefighters and 40 ambulances.

At least 36 dead as two trains collide in Greece
A passenger train is seen derailed after colliding with a freight train in the Tempe Valley near Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023.

Konstantinos Tzakaridis/Bloomberg/Getty

Officials said many of the passengers on the train from Athens to Thessaloniki were college students returning home after a long weekend of carnival celebrations.

Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga said: “This is a terrible tragedy that is difficult to comprehend. I am sorry to the parents of these children.”

Survivors said the impact threw several passengers out of the train windows. They said others fought to free themselves after a passenger train buckled and crashed into a field near a gorge about 235 miles north of Athens.

“There were a lot of big pieces of steel,” said local resident Vasilis Polizos. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

When he arrived, he said, dazed and confused people were fleeing the train’s back carriages.

“Naturally people were scared – very scared,” he said. “They were looking around and looking. They didn’t know where they were.”

“It was a nightmare… I’m still shivering,” a 22-year-old passenger named Angelos told AFP. “Fortunately, we were in the penultimate car and were able to get out safely. The first car caught fire and we panicked. The collision was like a giant earthquake. was.”

Eight railway workers, including two freight train drivers and two passenger train drivers, were killed in the accident, said Yannis Nitsas, president of the Hellenic Railways Workers’ Union.

The train crashed just before the Valley of Tempe, the canyon that separates the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. Thessaly governor Kostas Agorastos told Greece’s Sky TV that two trains collided head-on at high speed.

“Cars 1 and 2 no longer exist and car 3 has derailed,” he said.

Headlamp-wearing rescue workers worked through thick smoke, pulling pieces of metal from cars to search for stranded people. Others swept the fields with flashlights and checked under debris. Several bodies are believed to have been found in a dining car near the head of the passenger train.

AFP quoted a rescue worker emerging from the wreckage as saying: “I have never seen anything like this in my life. It’s a tragedy. Five hours later we found a body. increase.”

Greece’s fire department said about 66 people were hospitalized, including six in intensive care units.

“The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out under very difficult conditions as the collision between the two trains is serious,” said Fire Brigade spokesman Vassilis Varthakoyiannis.

Passengers with minor or uninjured injuries were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 80 miles north. Police named the missing people upon arrival to track them down.

A teenage survivor, who did not give his name to reporters, said he felt a hard brake just before the crash and saw sparks before coming to an abrupt halt.

“Our carriage did not derail, but the front carriage derailed and was destroyed,” he said, clearly trembling.

He added that the first car caught fire and he used the bag to break the window of the fourth car and escape.

Railway operator Hellenic Trains said about 350 passengers were on board the northbound passenger train to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city.

Agorastos described the clashes on state television as “very strong” and said it was a “terrifying night”.

“The front part of the train has been destroyed … Cranes are being brought in, special lifting equipment is being used to clear the debris, and the railcars are being lifted. Debris is scattered around the crash site.”

Officials said they have contacted the military for assistance.

The Hellenic Train, which has recently added high-speed service, is operated by the Italian FS Group, which operates rail services in several European countries.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/greece-train-crash/ Greek train crash: dozens dead, injured, station master arrested in head-on collision

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