According to the fire department, at least 32 people died in the serious train accident in Greece on Wednesday night. Another 53 people were seriously injured and treated in hospitals. "The search and rescue operation is ongoing," said a spokesman for the fire department on state television. "It's a tragedy," said a firefighter on state television from the scene of the accident near the city of Larissa. Rescuers used cranes and other heavy equipment to try to lift the derailed wagons to search for survivors and victims, reporters at the scene said.
No details were available from official sources about the circumstances of the accident. According to initial information from railway workers, a passenger train that had started from Athens collided head-on with a freight train coming from the opposite direction – from the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki. The passenger train was the Intercity 62, which left Athens at 7:22 p.m. on Tuesday evening for Thessaloniki with around 350 passengers.
Greek television showed videos from the scene of the accident near Tempi in central Greece. Several derailed wagons with shattered windows and thick clouds of smoke were seen. Debris lay on the street. Firefighters and rescue workers tried to find survivors in the rubble.
I've never seen anything like it in my life," said a member of the emergency services, who came out of a wrecked car, completely exhausted. "It's so tragic." An AFP reporter reported that one of the train cars was completely crushed, with rescuers barely able to get inside. Other wagons were partially destroyed, flames raged and smoke lay over the site.
A survivor said fire broke out on the passenger train after the collision. "There was chaos and a roar from hell," he added on state television. "We smashed the window panes with our suitcases and groped our way out of our wagon in the dark," said a young man.
"At the moment of the accident, the windows suddenly exploded," another passenger reported on television. “Fortunately we were able to open the door and escaped quickly. People didn't succeed in other cars," he said. Another passenger said: "I'm not injured, but I have bloodstains from other people who were injured next to me."
The passenger train traveling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki and a freight train traveling from Thessaloniki to Larissa had a head-on collision near the city of Larissa, the governor of the Thessaly region Konstantinos Agorastos told Skai TV channel. A total of four wagons derailed and at least two caught fire. The first two wagons were "almost completely destroyed" by the impact. About 250 passengers were safely taken to Thessaloniki by bus, said Governor Agorastos.
Greek media spoke of the "worst train accident in the history of the country". 150 emergency services participated in the rescue work, 40 ambulances were deployed. The causes are now being sought. The railway boss responsible for the route of the accident was arrested, reported state television. The route, which connects Athens with the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki, has been modernized in recent years. The Greek railways (Hellenic Train) are operated by the Italian state railway Ferrovie dello Stato Italiano (FS).
Despite the modernization with new bridges and tunnels and two tracks along the entire 500-kilometer Athens-Thessaloniki route, there are significant problems with the electrical coordination of traffic control. “Like in the old days, we drive from one part of the route to the other by radio. The station managers give us the green light,” said Kostas Genidounias, president of the train drivers' union on state radio. He was unable to say why this is happening and why no modern control system works.
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