The country’s deadliest rail crash in living memory threw entire carriages off the tracks after a passenger train and a cargo train collided head-on in Greece on Tuesday night. At least 36 people were killed and dozens injured.
66 people were hospitalized, six of whom were in intensive care, according to the fire brigade official.
Derailed carriages, broken windows, and thick plumes of smoke surrounded the site of the crash as the passenger train emerged from a tunnel.
There was a passenger carriage lying on its side almost 90 degrees from the rest of the wrecked train, and other derailed carriages tipped dangerously. “There was panic … the fire was immediate, as we were turning over we were being burned, fire was right and left,” said Stergios Minenis, 28, a 28-year-old passenger who jumped to safety.
From the fifth carriage, a passenger said: “Windows were being smashed and people were screaming… One of the windows caved in from the impact of iron from the other train.” Hellenic Train data indicate that 342 passengers and ten crew were on the passenger train, while two crew were on the cargo train.
One woman ran to embrace her daughter as she disembarked from a bus with others. “Mum, don’t let me go, I’m hurt,” she said. Another woman was waiting there and said her child hadn’t called.
Most of the dead were young, in their 20s, according to the head of the emergency unit at Larissa hospital, Apostolos Komnos. Thessaloniki has a large student population, and many passengers were returning home following a long holiday weekend marking the beginning of Greek Orthodox lent. As a tribute to the victims of the death train crash, the government declared three days of national mourning from Wednesday to Friday, with flags flying at half-mast.
“We still don’t know the exact number of victims, and we will investigate the reasons for (the crash) in full transparency,” Kostas Karamanlis, in tears, told reporters. According to Konstantinos Agorastos, the two trains were on the same track when they crashed, which is one of the questions investigators must answer.
According to a police official, the station master in Larissa has been temporarily detained and three witnesses have been questioned, including a representative for Hellenic Train.
There was an accident on a cargo train traveling from Thessaloniki to Larissa. Local media reported the train left Athens around 7.30 pm (0530 GMT) and the fire brigade said it was notified shortly before midnight. The Greek government sold TRAINOSE to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 as part of its international bailout programme, with hundreds of millions of euros expected to be invested in rail infrastructure.