Wednesday , March 22 2023

Dozens killed in Greece train crash


ROME: At least 36 people were killed and dozens more injured after a passenger train carrying hundreds of people collided at high speed with a freight train in northern Greece, officials said Wednesday.

Around 350 passengers were on board the Hellenic Train headed from the capital Athens to popular tourist destination Thessaloniki when the fiery, “head-on” crash unfolded near the town of Tempe just before midnight local time Tuesday, the rail company said in a statement.

In an update early Wednesday, fire officials said at least 36 people had died in the crash, while another 66 were being treated for injuries. At least six of those injured were in intensive care units, officials said.

They said a search operation to locate any remaining trapped passengers at the crash site was still underway.

Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flames following the collision, which sent the passenger train into a field next to the tracks near a gorge about 235 miles north of Athens, The Associated Press reported.

The local station master in the city of Larissa, a 59-year-old man responsible for overseeing signaling, has been arrested in connection with the crash, AP reported, citing a police report.

Many of those on board were university students traveling back from a festival, officials said. “This is a terrible tragedy that is hard to comprehend,” said Mina Gaga, the deputy health minister. “I feel so sorry for the parents of these kids.”

Firefighters and Hellenic Train staff rushed to the scene in an effort to snuff out the flames and rescue passengers, the company said.

In a separate statement, the company expressed “deep sorrow” over the incident and said it was cooperating with authorities. The company said it would be providing support to the families of those killed, as well as those injured and other passengers affected by the deadly crash.

The cause of the collision was not immediately clear.

Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train from the impact, according to the AP.

“There were many big pieces of steel,” said Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident who was one of the first people on the scene. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

“People, naturally, were scared, very scared,” he said. “They were looking around, searching; they didn’t know where they were.”

The trains crashed just before the Vale of Tempe, a gorge separating the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia.

Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the Thessaly area, told Greece’s Skai television the two trains had crashed head-on at high speed, according to AP.

“Carriage one and two no longer exist, and the third has derailed,” he said.

Passengers who were unharmed or who sustained minor injuries in the incident were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, roughly 80 miles north of the crash site, according to AP.

The Hellenic Red Cross said in a tweet that an emergency blood donation drive was being set up in Larissa to help those injured in the train crash.

Tributes from world leaders and other officials have poured in in the wake of the deadly crash. “My thoughts are with the people of Greece after the terrible train accident that claimed so many lives last night near Larissa,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. (AP)

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