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Protesters clash with police in Athens over deadly train crash

Clashes have erupted between police and a group of demonstrators in central Athens on the fringes of a protest by thousands of students and
railway workers over Greece’s deadliest train crash in living

A small group of protesters hurled petrol bombs at police,
who responded with tear gas and hand grenades, before dispersing
to nearby streets on Sunday.

At least 57 people were killed and dozens were injured on
Tuesday when a passenger train with more than 350 people on
board collided with a freight train on the same track in central

After protests over the past three days across the
country, some 10,000 students, railway workers and groups
affiliated with leftist parties gathered in an Athens square on
Sunday to express sympathy for the lives lost and to demand
better safety standards on the rail network.

“That crime won’t be forgotten,” protesters shouted as they
released black balloons into the sky. A placard read: “Their
policies cost human lives.”

The train, travelling from Athens to the northern city of
Thessaloniki, was packed with university students returning
after a long holiday weekend. The disaster has triggered an
outpouring of anger, as well as a sharp focus on safety

Railway workers, who also lost colleagues in the accident,
have staged rotating walkouts since Wednesday to denounce
cost-cutting and underinvestment in the rail infrastructure, a
legacy of Greece’s debilitating debt crisis from 2010 to 2018.

READ MORE: Protests erupt in Greece as death toll from train crash rises to 57

‘Human error’?

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government has blamed
human error for the crash. However, Mitsotakis said on Sunday
that human error should not deflect from responsibilities for a
long-suffering railway network.

“As prime minister, I owe everyone, but most of all the
relatives of the victims, an apology,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Justice will very fast investigate the tragedy and determine

A station master in the nearby city of Larissa who was on
duty at the time of the crash was charged this week with
endangering lives and disrupting public transport.

The station master, who cannot be named under Greek law,
appeared before a magistrate on Sunday after his lawyer
requested extra time on Saturday to respond to the charges
following new information concerning the case. Those proceedings
were ongoing.

Railway workers’ unions say safety systems throughout
the rail network have been deficient for years as a remote
surveillance and signalling system has not been delivered on
time. They have called on the government to provide a timetable
for the implementation of safety protocols.

Mitsotakis said on Sunday that if there had been a
remote system in place throughout the rail network “it would
have been, in practice, impossible for the accident to happen”.

Greece would soon announce the action, he said, adding that
Athens would seek expertise from the European Commission and
other countries on improving rail safety.

READ MORE: Outrage as Greece admits ‘failures’ after fatal train crash

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