At least 36 people have been killed and scores injured after two trains collided head-on in
central Greece, but the cause of the country’s deadliest rail crash in decades remains unclear.
The deadly crash prompted Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis to resign on 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.”
Greece declared a three-day national mourning following the in the incident, which is considered the worst train accident in the country.
Multiple cars had derailed and at least three burst into flames after the collision near Tempe, some 380 kilometres north of Athens late on Tuesday.
“We heard a big bang, (it was) 10 nightmarish seconds,” said Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old passenger who jumped to safety from the wreckage.
“We were turning over in the wagon until we fell on our sides…then there was panic, cables (everywhere) fire, the fire was immediate, as we were turning over we were being burned, the fire was right and left.”
“It was like an earthquake,” Angelos Tsiamouras, another passenger, told ERT.
Carriages caught fire
Konstantinos Agorastor, governor of the broader Thessaly region, told SKAI TV the two trains collided head-on — a passenger train travelling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki, and a cargo train from Thessaloniki to Larissa.
“They were travelling at great speed and one (driver) didn’t know the other was coming,” the governor said.
“The collision was very strong,” the first four carriages had derailed, while the first two were “almost completely destroyed,” he added.
The impact caused a fire in a number of the passenger carriages, burning many commuters who were rushed to hospitals. Officials said the army had been contacted to assist.
Rail operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki had about 350 passengers on board when the collision occurred.
About 250 passengers were evacuated safely to Thessaloniki on buses.
Broadcaster SKAI showed footage of derailed carriages, badly damaged with broken windows and thick plumes of smoke, as well as debris strewn across the road.
Rescue workers were seen carrying torches in carriages looking for trapped passengers.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan extended his condolences to Greece, saying that he is “deeply saddened” by the deadly crash.
“President Erdogan extended his condolences for those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured,” said a statement by Türkiye’s Communications Directorate.
Erdogan also sent a message of condolences to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
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