March 2, 2023

GREECE: The Country’s Worst-Ever Train Collision. Passenger Train Head-On Collision With Freight Train. Stationmaster Arrested, Transport Minister Resigned. 43 People Died, Dozens Injured.

9 News Australia published March 1, 2023: Greece's deadliest train crash in decades attributed to 'human error'. Greece's deadliest train crash in decades, which saw 43 people killed, has been attributed to a tragic "human error". The death toll is expected to rise.
Sky News Australia published March 1, 2023: Greece Transport Minister steps down following deadly train collision. Greece's Transport Minister has resigned and a station master has been arrested after at least 43 people died in a head-on train collision. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
9 News Australia published March 1, 2023: Man arrested as ‘human error’ to blame over deadly Greek train crash. The Greek Prime Minister says “human error” is to blame for the country’s worst-ever rail crash as authorities have confirmed a stationmaster was arrested, and at least 38 people are dead after two trains collided head-on at 140 km/hr.
BBC News published March 1, 2023: Greek transport minister resigns after deadly train crash. Greece’s minister for infrastructure and transport, Kostas Karamanlis, has resigned in the aftermath of a deadly train crash in the country. At least 36 people have been killed after a passenger train and freight train collided, and dozens of people have been injured. Mr Karamanlis visited the crash site in the aftermath of the collision, and said: "when something so tragic happens, it is impossible to continue and pretend like it didn’t happen”. Meanwhile, a local station master based at Larissa, which the passenger train had passed through, has been arrested. Police say the 59-year-old has been charged with manslaughter by negligence and grievous bodily harm by negligence.

BBC News, UK
written by The Visual Journalism Team
Wednesday March 1, 2023

Two trains have collided in northern Greece, killing at least 43 people and injuring dozens of others. Here's what we know about the incident so far.

What happened?

A passenger service carrying some 350 people crashed with a freight train shortly after leaving Larissa just before midnight on Tuesday.

The incident happened as the passenger train emerged from a tunnel in the municipality of Tempi.

The first four carriages of the passenger train were derailed, and the first two caught fire and were "almost completely destroyed", Thessaly regional governor Kostas Agorastos says.

How many casualties were there?

The exact number of casualties is unclear, but Greek news reports say at least 43 people have died and dozens more have been injured, some of them seriously.

A report by the Greek public broadcaster ERT said members of the passenger train's crew were among the dead. It said most of the casualties had been recovered from the third carriage, which was derailed.

A search is continuing of the wreckage of the first two carriages. On Wednesday there were 150 firefighters, using 17 vehicles and four cranes. Forty ambulances were on the scene.

Elli Kasholi, a journalist who was at the scene on Wednesday told the BBC that 20-25 people were still missing after the crash but some of these may be people who left the scene without being accounted for.

Who was on the train?

The passenger train involved was about two-thirds full with many young people, Reuters news agency reports, citing eyewitnesses.

It was travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki, which has a sizeable student population, and it's believed many would have been returning there after a holiday for Greek Orthodox lent.

The Greek fire department has said identifying people is proving "very difficult" because temperatures exceeded 1,300C where the fire broke out.

Thessaloniki's student associations are calling for a full investigation with no "cover-up".

The freight train was heading from Thessaloniki to Larissa.

What went wrong?

It is still unclear what caused the crash but the regional governor says the two services were running on the same track.

A local station master, based at Larissa which the passenger train had passed through, has been arrested. Police say the 59-year-old has been charged with manslaughter by negligence and grievous bodily harm by negligence.

The station master, who is in charge of signalling, denies wrongdoing and has blamed the accident on a possible technical failure.

What have railway workers said?

The head of the union that represents workers from Greece's Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) says the initial conclusion from an investigation into the crash is that it happened due to human error.

However, according to local media, Nikos Tsikalakis also says that more than one factor is needed for such an incident to happen and the complete picture of circumstances is not yet known.

In an interview with Radio ENA, he referenced a lack of workers in the rail network - saying that while there should be more than 2,000 employees nationally, there are currently only 750.

Workers also say there have been long-running problems with the electronic systems that are supposed to warn drivers of danger ahead.

"Nothing works. Everything happens manually throughout the Athens-Thessaloniki network. Neither the indicators, nor the traffic lights, nor the electronic traffic control work," train drivers' association president Kostas Genidounias told ERT.

What have survivors said?

Some survivors have described the moment the trains collided as like an earthquake.

"We heard a big bang," said 28-year-old passenger Stergios Minenis, who jumped to safety from the wreckage.

"We were turning over in the carriage until we fell on our sides and until the commotion stopped. Then there was panic. Cables, fire. The fire was immediate. As we were turning over we were being burned. Fire was right and left," Mr Minenis was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"For 10, 15 seconds it was chaos. Tumbling over, fires, cables hanging, broken windows, people screaming, people trapped."

Another passenger named Lazos told the newspaper Protothema: "I wasn't hurt, but I was stained with blood from other people who were injured near me."

What has been the official response?

The Greek government has declared three days of national mourning and said the cost of the victims' funerals would be paid for from the public purse.

The transport minister has resigned as a "sign of respect" for the people who had died. Kostas Karamanlis said he was taking responsibility for the government's failure to modernise the country's railways in the three-and-a-half years it had been in power.

Visiting the accident scene on Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis vowed to find out what happened and ensure it never happened again.

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

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