Greek train crash toll rises, government promises answers

  • At least 46 killed in Greece’s worst train crash
  • The government promises to repair the dilapidated railway line
  • Railway employees walked off the job in protest over safety standards

LARISA, Greece, March 2 (Reuters) – The death toll from Greece’s worst train crash could rise further, with 46 people confirmed dead but ten missing, officials said on Thursday.

There was outrage across the country at how two trains could collide head-on on the same track, and the government said it was doing everything it could to prevent such an accident from happening again.

A high-speed passenger train carrying more than 350 people collided with a freight train near the city of Larissa late on Tuesday, throwing the carriages off the tracks.

“We are all devastated by this tragic incident,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomo told a news conference.

“The loss and trauma this has caused, the physical and mental trauma of the survivors and the anxiety of this country is enormous and difficult to manage, especially now.”

As many in Greece demanded answers, rescue workers continued to comb through charred and bent train cars to find more victims.

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“It’s a very difficult moment, to save bodies instead of saving lives,” rescuer Konstantinos Imanimidis, 40, told Reuters at the crash site about 140 miles (230 km) north of Athens.

“Temperatures of 1,200 degrees and above in the carriages would not allow anyone to survive.”

Nearby, two brothers were crying, and 33-year-old Sokratis Bozos said they had come to the crash site hoping for news about their father because the hospital could not say whether his father’s body had been recovered.

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Relatives, including the Bozos brothers, had to provide DNA samples at a hospital in Larissa to identify some of the victims, where disbelief turned to anger for some.

“Some bastard has to pay for this,” a relative shouted outside the hospital.

Many of the victims were university students returning home after a long vacation. Scores were injured.

objections

On Wednesday evening, protesters threw rocks at train company offices in Athens before riot police fired tear gas. Protests also broke out in Thessaloniki.

On Thursday, trains were halted in a one-day strike against the demands of unions. Successive governments have refused to heed repeated requests to improve safety standards.

The government promised a comprehensive investigation. Oikonomo said authorities will investigate the causes of the accident and “chronic delays” in the implementation of train projects.

“These delays are rooted in the long-standing ills of the Greek people (sector), distortions that go back decades,” he said, adding that the government’s efforts to deal with it “couldn’t eradicate it.”

Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned due to the accident. His successor, Giorgos Gerapetridis, said he took over on Thursday with a mandate to investigate the accident and modernize the ailing railway system.

Investigation

The station master of Larissa railway station was arrested on Wednesday and produced before a local magistrate on Thursday. Oikonomo said the man, who has not spoken publicly, pleaded guilty to negligence.

Nikos Tsouridis, a retired train driver instructor, said human error does not fully explain what happened.

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“The station master made a mistake and he admits it, but of course there should be a safety mechanism to back off,” he said.

Greece sold railway operator TRAINOSE to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 under its international bailout program.

The Italian operation is responsible for passenger and freight transport, and the Greek state-controlled OSE for infrastructure.

Report by Lefteris Papatimas, Alexandros Avramidis, Renee Maltezou, Carolina Tagaris, Michele Kambas; By Renee Maltezou; Editing by John Stonestreet and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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