March 21, 2023

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GREECE TRAIN CRASH: Protests erupt in Athens after a fatal collision

(CNN) Protesters poured into the streets Greece after head-on collision Between two trains, dozens were killed and dozens injured, amid outrage over the country’s poor record regarding railway safety.

Protesters clashed with police in the Greek capital, Athens, after a passenger train carrying more than 350 people collided with a freight train on Tuesday evening in Tempe, near the city of Larissa, killing at least 46 people and injuring dozens. The death toll is expected to rise.

The Greek transport minister had resigned in the wake of the tragedy, while the railway workers’ union was on strike accusing the government of “disrespect” in the sector.

Another 52 people remain in hospital as a result of the accident, which left wrecked vehicles and charred wreckage in its wake. The state-owned Public Broadcasting Corporation reported Thursday that six of the injured are in critical condition with head injuries and serious burns.

A local hospital told ERT that most of the passengers involved in the accident were young men. The accident happened shortly after the weekend.

Greek authorities said the process of identifying the dead is continuing along with recovery efforts involving firefighters and ambulance workers, with a focus on the first carriages of the passenger train.

The protests targeted the offices of the Greek railway company, Hellenic Train, in Athens
An aerial photo taken on Wednesday from a drone shows emergency crews sifting through the wreckage of the crash that killed dozens and injured scores more.

“Pain turned into anger”

Greece has a poor record for rail passenger safety compared to other countries in Europe, having the highest rate of railway fatalities per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 out of 28 countries on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Rail Agency.

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In an extraordinary meeting, the Greek Federation of Railway Workers unanimously decided to start a 24-hour strike on Thursday to highlight poor working conditions and chronic staff shortages.

She accused the federal government of “disrespecting” the railways for causing the tragic collapse, saying, “More permanent staff, better training, and mainly the implementation of modern security systems, are permanently thrown into the trash.”

Separately, Greek metro workers announced another 24-hour strike, saying in a statement: “There are no words to describe such a tragedy.”

Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said the railway system inherited by the government was “not up to 21st century standards” after he stepped down on Wednesday.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address after visiting the crash site that the collision was “due to” tragic human error”.

He said that the Minister of Transport’s decision to resign was honorable, and added that the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE had also submitted their resignations.

Demonstrators, pictured on Wednesday, clash with riot police in the streets of Athens, after a collision on Tuesday that left dozens dead and scores injured.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attributed the accident to “tragic human error” while visiting the scene in Tempe on Wednesday.

A train station manager in the city of Larissa has been arrested over the collision, as part of the investigation into the accident.

Larissa police said the 59-year-old was charged with mass murder through negligence and causing grievous bodily harm through negligence.

According to ERT, the station manager who was questioned about his role in the collision admitted that he “made a mistake”.

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Condolences have poured in from around the world, while a three-day mourning period is underway in Greece.

CNN’s Heather Chen, Muhammad Tawfiq and Jennifer Hauser contributed to reporting.