Home News What happened in Greece? All you need to know about a fatal train accident

What happened in Greece? All you need to know about a fatal train accident

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Dozens were killed when two trains collided head-on in central Greece, in the deadliest train accident in the country’s history.

Here’s what we know so far.

What happened and when?

  • A passenger train traveling from the capital, Athens, to the northern city of Thessaloniki collided with a freight train carrying freight containers coming from the opposite direction on the same track.
  • The passenger train carried 342 passengers and 10 crew members, while the freight train had two crew members on board.
  • The train left Athens with passengers on board at 7:22 pm (1922 GMT). The incident was reported to the authorities just before midnight.
  • The derailed cars caught fire after the collision. Temperatures in the carriage rose to 1,300 °C (2,370 °F) after it caught fire.
  • The death toll on Thursday morning was 46.

Where did it happen?

  • The accident occurred outside the central town of Larissa, 376 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens, in the municipality of Tempe.

What do we know about the victims?

  • Many of the victims are believed to be university students returning home after a long weekend.
  • A number of bodies were charred beyond recognition and some passengers were identified with body parts.
  • Relatives of the victims went to a hospital in Larissa where they were asked to give DNA samples to be tested against those recovered from the crash site.
  • Greek firefighters said 57 people remained hospitalized on Wednesday evening, including six in intensive care.
  • More than 15 other people were discharged from hospital after receiving treatment.
  • More than 200 uninjured or slightly injured people were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the north.

What happened?

  • Authorities are still investigating the circumstances that led to the accident.
  • Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it happened “mainly due to tragic human error,” but gave no details.
  • The police arrested the director of Larisa station, which is responsible for railway traffic on this part of the track. He was due to appear before the prosecution on Thursday to be formally charged.
  • Investigators were trying to determine why the two trains were on the same track “for several miles.”
  • Yannis Ditsas, head of the railway workers’ union, told Skai TV that the automatic signals at the crash site were not working.
  • Industry experts say systems that indicate if a track is already occupied by flashing a red light or automatically triggering a transfer switch to divert a train to another track are not being properly maintained.
  • Al Jazeera correspondent John Psaropoulos said in a report from Larissa: “Red lights often malfunction or come on for no reason, and the culture of the Greek railway system is such that conductors and station managers have learned to ignore them.”
  • The last recorded conversation between the station master and the driver of the passenger train indicates an accident such as simply ignoring the signal. “You’re fine, and you’re fine,” said the station chief. The train driver wasn’t sure if the signal to leave was correct. »
  • Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis has resigned, saying he bears responsibility for the country’s long-standing failures to reform a railway system that, in his words, “wasn’t fit for the 21st century”.
  • Nikos Tsourides, a retired train driving instructor, said the drivers involved in the accident died “due to the lack of safety measures”. Why were there no security measures? The station chief admitted the mistake. But surely there must be a safety mechanism that can be referenced.
  • Train unions say safety deficiencies on the Athens-Thessaloniki railway, the country’s main line, have been known for years.
  • Greece sold railway company TRINOSE as part of an international bailout program in 2017 to Italian company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, and plans to invest hundreds of millions of euros in railway infrastructure in the coming years.

What is the last on earth?

  • Rescuers resumed their search for survivors on Thursday.
  • Seven charred bodies were found in the third carriage of the passenger train, which was used as a restaurant.
  • Government spokesman Giannis Okonomo is expected to brief the media on Thursday afternoon.
  • The authorities declared three days of national mourning.

How did people react?

  • Rail workers across the country quit their jobs on Thursday, saying successive governments had ignored repeated demands for better safety standards.
  • And in Athens, hundreds demonstrated late Wednesday night to protest the deaths on the trains.
  • Minor clashes broke out as some demonstrators threw stones at Greek railways and riot police offices and set rubbish bins on fire. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.
  • Internationally, flags were flown in front of all European Commission buildings in Brussels as world leaders expressed their condolences. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pope Francis were among those who offered their condolences.
Students take part in a protest following a fatal train crash near the town of Larissa in central Greece [Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP]

What do the survivors say?

  • Some of the survivors described the time of the accident.
  • “There was a panic (…) The flames were immediate. As we were turning around, we were burning. There were fires on the right and left,” Stergios Mennis, 28, who jumped to safety, told Reuters.
  • Another passenger who escaped from the fifth carriage told Sky TV: “Windows are broken and people are screaming… A window collapsed under the influence of iron from the other train.”
A crane, firefighters and rescuers work after a collision in Tempe near the town of Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023. [Vaggelis Kousioras/AP Photo]

Rescuers stand near the train wreckage after the collision in Tempe [Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo]

Students sit with candles during a sit-in protest in honor of the victims of a train accident near the town of Larissa [Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP]

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