Greece train crash: Protests erupt in Athens after fatal collision

(CNN) Protesters poured into the streets of Greece after a head-on collision between two trains killed dozens and injured dozens, amid anger over the country’s poor rail safety record.

Protesters clashed with police in the Greek capital Athens after a passenger train carrying more than 350 people collided with a freight train on Tuesday night in Tempi, near the town of Larissa, killing at least 46 and dozens of injured. The death toll is expected to rise.

The Greek Minister of Transport resigned following the tragedy, while a union of railway workers went on strike, accusing the government of “lack of respect” in the sector.

Another 52 people remain in hospital following the crash, which left overturned cars and scorched debris in its wake. Six of the injured treated are in critical condition due to head injuries and severe burns, state broadcaster ERT reported on Thursday.

Most of the passengers involved in the crash were young, a local hospital told ERT. The accident occurred shortly after a public holiday weekend.

The process of identifying the dead continues alongside recovery efforts involving firefighters and paramedics, with a focus on the first carriages of the passenger train, Greek authorities said.

Some of the relatives and friends of the missing passengers posted their photos on social media as part of a call for information about their loved ones, CNN affiliate Skai TV reported.

Separately, a relative said his father and brother, who were passengers on the train, are still missing, according to Skai TV. “My brother was 15. He had his life ahead of him. And nobody says anything about it.”

The protests targeted the offices of the Greek railway company, Hellenic Train, in Athens

An aerial photograph taken by a drone on Wednesday shows emergency crews excavating wreckage from the crash, which killed dozens and injured dozens.

“Pain turned to anger”

Greece has a poor rail passenger safety record compared to other countries in Europe, recording the highest rail fatality rate per million train-kilometres from 2018 to 2020 among 28 countries on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Agency for Railways.

At an extraordinary meeting, the Greek Federation of Railway Workers unanimously decided to launch the 24-hour strike on Thursday to denounce poor working conditions and chronic understaffing.

He accused the federal government of “disrespecting” the railroads for causing the tragic accident, saying that “more permanent staff, better training and mainly the implementation of modern safety systems are definitely thrown away. in the garbage”.

Separately, another 24-hour strike was announced by Greek metro workers, who said in a statement: “There are no words to describe such a tragedy.”

Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said the rail system the government had inherited was “not up to 21st century standards” as he left office on Wednesday.

In a televised address after visiting the crash site, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the collision was “mainly” due to “tragic human error”.

He said the Transport Minister’s decision to resign was honorable and added that the leaders of the Hellenic Railway Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE had also submitted their resignations.

Protesters, pictured on Wednesday, clash with riot police on the streets of Athens, after Tuesday’s collision killed dozens and injured dozens

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attributed the accident to “tragic human error”, during a visit to the scene of the incident in Tempi on Wednesday.

A station manager at a station in the town of Larissa has been arrested in connection with the collision, as part of the investigation into the incident.

The 59-year-old man in question had been charged with negligent mass death and negligent grievous bodily harm, the Larissa Police Department said.

According to ERT, the station manager questioned for his role in the collision admitted to having “made a mistake”.

Condolences are pouring in from around the world, as a three-day period of mourning is underway in Greece.

Britain’s King Charles III said in a statement that he and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, were “very shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the terrible accident”.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts go out to the families of the victims of the terrible accident that occurred last night near Larissa. France stands with the Greeks.”

CNN’s Heather Chen, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Jennifer Hauser and Max Foster contributed reporting.

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