Head-on train crash in Greece kills 36, injures at least 85

A passenger train collided with an oncoming freight train in northern Greece late Tuesday.
Posted at 9:46 PM, Feb 28, 2023

A head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train flattened carriages, killed at least 36 people and injured some 85, Greek officials said Wednesday, with the death toll expected to rise.

Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned Wednesday, saying he felt it was his “duty” to step down “as a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly.”

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but the stationmaster in the nearby city of Larissa was arrested Wednesday. The police did not release his name. Another two people have been detained for questioning.

Before dawn the next day, rescuers searched through smoking wreckage for survivors. What appeared to be the third carriage lay atop the twisted remains of the first two.

It’s unclear at what speed the two trains were traveling when they ran into each other just before midnight Tuesday, but state broadcaster ERT quoted rescuers as saying that some victims’ bodies were found 100-130 feet from the impact site. Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flames in the crash near the town of Tempe, about 235 miles north of Athens.

Survivors said the impact threw several passengers through the windows of train cars. They said others fought to free themselves after the passenger train buckled, slamming into a field near a gorge.

Many of the 350 people aboard the passenger train were students returning from Greece’s raucous Carnival, officials said. This year was the first time the three-day festival, which precedes Lent, was celebrated in full since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

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On Wednesday, the government declared three days of national mourning, while flags flew at half-staff outside all European Commission buildings in Brussels.After sunrise, rescuers turned to cranes and other heavy machinery to start moving large pieces of the trains, revealing more bodies and dismembered remains. Officials said the army had been contacted to assist.The trains crashed just before the Vale of Tempe, a gorge that separates the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia.Eight rail employees were among those killed in the crash, including the two drivers of the freight train and the two drivers of the passenger train, according to Greek Railroad Workers Union President Yannis Nitsas.Greece's firefighting service said some 66 people were hospitalized, including six in intensive care.More than 200 people who were unharmed in the crash or suffered minor injuries were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 80 miles to the north. Police took their names as they arrived, in an effort to track anyone who may be missing.Barely able to hold back tears, Greece's Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis told reporters at the crash site that authorities would investigate “in all seriousness and complete transparency” the causes of the crash.

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