- At least 46 dead in Greece’s worst train disaster
- Railway workers leave work to protest against safety standards
Larissa, GREECE, March 2 (Reuters) – Rescuers combed through charred and warped carriages to search for other victims of Greece’s deadliest train crash on Thursday, a disaster that killed at least 46 people and caused a national outpouring of grief and anger.
The high-speed passenger train with more than 350 people on board crashed head-on into a freight train near the town of Larissa on Tuesday night. Cars were thrown off the tracks, including two completely crushed and several engulfed in flames.
“The most difficult moment is this, when instead of saving lives, we have to recover bodies,” 40-year-old rescuer Konstantinos Imanimidis told Reuters at the crash site, 210 km north. from Athens.
“Temperatures of 1,200 degrees and more in the carriages do not allow anyone to stay alive.
Nearby, two brothers were crying, saying they had come to the crash site hoping to hear from their father, in his 60s, after the hospital was unable to tell them if his body had been found.
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Many passengers had to kick through windows to escape the flames. To identify some of the victims, relatives had to give DNA samples to a hospital in Larissa, where disbelief turned to anger for some.
“A bastard has to pay for this,” a parent shouted
Many of the victims were university students returning home from a long holiday weekend and officials said the death toll is expected to rise further. Dozens of people were injured.
The sinking sparked sadness and anger across Greece, where the government declared three days of national mourning.
Protesters threw stones at the offices of the railway company in Athens in the evening, before being dispersed by volleys of tear gas fired by riot police. Protests also erupted in Thessaloniki.
And on Thursday, trains were halted in a day-long strike against what unions said was a refusal by successive governments to heed repeated demands for better safety standards.
Newly appointed Transport Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis said he had been tasked with investigating the reasons for the accident and upgrading the infrastructure, after his predecessor, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned on Wednesday following the accident.
The station master at Larissa station was arrested on Wednesday as authorities investigate the circumstances that led the passenger train, en route to the northern city of Thessaloniki, to collide with another train carrying shipping containers coming in the opposite direction on the same lane.
He was due to appear before a local magistrate on Thursday.
In a televised address on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had previously been to the crash site, said the evidence pointed to human error.
Nikos Tsouridis, a retired train driver trainer, said human error did not fully explain what happened.
“The stationmaster made a mistake, he admitted it, but surely there should be a safety mechanism to fall back on,” he said.
Greece sold rail operator TRAINOSE as part of its international rescue package in 2017 to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, expecting hundreds of millions of euros to be invested in rail infrastructure in the years to come.
The Italian operation is responsible for passengers and freight, and the Greek state-controlled OSE for infrastructure.
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Alexandros Avramidis, Renee Maltezou, Carolina Tagaris, Michele Kambas; Written by Renée Maltezou; Editing by John Stonestreet and Frank Jack Daniel
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