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Rescuers comb wreckage of Greece’s deadliest prepare crash

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TEMPE, Greece — Rescuers searched late into the night time Wednesday for survivors amid the mangled, burned-out wrecks of two trains that collided in northern Greece, killing at the very least 43 individuals and crumpling carriages into twisted metal knots within the nation’s deadliest rail crash.

The influence simply earlier than midnight Tuesday threw some passengers into ceilings and out the home windows.

“My head hit the roof of the carriage with the jolt,” Stefanos Gogakos, who was in a rear automotive, instructed state broadcaster ERT. He stated home windows shattered, showering riders with glass.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to as the collision of the passenger prepare and a freight prepare “a horrific rail accident with out precedent in our nation,” and pledged a full, unbiased investigation.

He stated it appeared the crash was “primarily resulting from a tragic human error,” however didn’t elaborate.

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The prepare from Athens to Thessaloniki was carrying 350 passengers, lots of them college students getting back from raucous Carnival celebrations. Whereas the observe is double, each trains had been touring in reverse instructions on the identical line close to the Vale of Tempe, a river valley about 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens.

STATIONMASTER ARRESTED; MINISTER RESIGNS

Authorities arrested the stationmaster on the prepare’s final cease, within the metropolis of Larissa. They didn’t launch the person’s identify or the explanation for the arrest, however the stationmaster is answerable for rail site visitors on that stretch of the tracks. He was resulting from seem earlier than a prosecutor Thursday to be formally charged.

Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned, saying he was stepping down “as a primary indication of respect for the reminiscence of the individuals who died so unfairly.”

Karamanlis stated he had made “each effort” to enhance a railway system that had been “in a state that does not befit the twenty first century.”

However, he added, “When one thing this tragic occurs, it is unimaginable to proceed as if nothing has occurred.”

The union representing prepare employees introduced a 24-hour strike for Thursday, whereas protests by left-wing teams broke out in Athens late Wednesday. Athens metro employees additionally referred to as a 24-hour strike for Thursday, saying they face related issues as railway staff.

WRECKAGE MAKES RESCUE EFFORTS DIFFICULT

Emergency employees used cranes and different heavy equipment to maneuver giant items of the trains, revealing extra our bodies and dismembered stays. The operation was to proceed in a single day, with firefighters continuing painstakingly via the wreckage.

“It’s unlikely there will probably be survivors, however hope dies final,” rescuer Nikos Zygouris stated.

Larissa’s chief coroner, Roubini Leondari, stated 43 our bodies had been dropped at her for examination and would require DNA identification as they had been largely disfigured.

“Most (of the our bodies) are younger individuals,” she instructed ERT. “They’re in very unhealthy situation.”

Greece’s firefighting service stated 57 individuals remained hospitalized late Wednesday, together with six in intensive care. Greater than 15 others had been discharged after receiving remedy.

Greater than 200 individuals who had been unhurt or suffered minor accidents had been taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the north. Police took their names as they arrived, in an effort to trace anybody who could also be lacking.

Hellenic Prepare, which operates all of Greece’s passenger and cargo trains, together with those who collided, provided its “heartfelt condolences” to the victims’ households. The corporate belongs to Italy’s state railways.

Eight rail staff had been among the many {dead}, together with the 2 drivers of the freight prepare and the 2 drivers of the passenger prepare, in line with Yannis Nitsas, president of the Greek Railroad Employees Union.

The union referred to as the one-day strike to protest what it stated was continual neglect of Greece’s railways by successive governments.

“Sadly, our long-standing calls for for employees hirings, higher coaching and above all use of recent security know-how at all times find yourself within the wastepaper basket,” it stated in a press release.

PASSENGERS SAY TRAIN CRASH WAS LIKE AN EXPLOSION

A teenage survivor who didn’t give his identify to reporters stated that simply earlier than the crash he felt sudden braking and noticed sparks — after which there was a sudden cease.

“Our carriage didn’t derail, however the ones in entrance did and had been smashed,” he stated, visibly shaken. He used a bag to interrupt the window of his automotive, the fourth, and escape.

Gogakos stated the crash felt like an explosion, and a few smoke entered the carriage. He stated some passengers escaped via home windows however that after a couple of minutes, crew members had been capable of open the doorways and let individuals out.

A number of automobiles derailed, and at the very least one burst into flames.

“Temperatures reached 1,300 levels Celsius (2,372 levels Fahrenheit), which makes it much more tough to determine the individuals who had been in it,” hearth service spokesperson Vassilis Varthakoyiannis stated.

A person who was attempting to establish the destiny of his daughter, who was on the prepare, stated he had a harrowing cellphone dialog together with her earlier than she was lower off.

“She instructed me, ‘We’re on hearth. … My hair is burning,’” he instructed ERT, with out giving his identify.

GREECE GOES FROM CARNIVAL TO MOURNING

Lots of the passengers had been college students returning to Thessaloniki from Carnival, however officers stated however no detailed passenger checklist was out there. This 12 months was the primary time the pageant, which precedes Lent, was celebrated in full for the reason that begin of the pandemic in 2020.

The federal government declared three days of nationwide mourning from Wednesday, whereas flags flew at half-staff outdoors all European Fee buildings in Brussels.

Visiting the accident scene, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated the federal government should assist the injured get well and determine the {dead}.

“I can assure one factor: We’ll discover out the causes of this tragedy, and we are going to do all that is in our energy in order that one thing like this by no means occurs once more,” Mitsotakis stated.

It was the nation’s deadliest rail crash on file. In 1968, 34 individuals died in a crash within the southern Peloponnese area.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou broke off an official go to to Moldova to go to the scene, laying flowers beside the wreckage.

Pope Francis provided condolences to the households of the {dead} in a message despatched to the president of the Greek bishops convention by the Vatican’s secretary of state,

Condolences poured in from around the globe, together with neighboring Turkey, Greece’s historic regional rival. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed sorrow and needs for a speedy restoration for these injured, his workplace stated.

Regardless of the frosty relations between the 2 NATO members, Greece’s management had referred to as Erdogan final month following an enormous earthquake that killed tens of 1000’s in Turkey.

In Athens, a number of hundred members of left-wing teams marched late Wednesday to protest the prepare deaths. Minor clashes broke out as some protesters threw stones on the workplaces of Greece’s rail operator and riot police and set dumpsters on hearth. No arrests or accidents had been reported.

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Paphitis reported from Athens, Greece. Derek Gatopoulos in Athens and Patrick Quinn and David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this story.



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