Death toll rises as Greece train crash victims work to recover charred wreckage

  • At least 46 killed in Greece’s worst train crash
  • Railway employees walked off the job in protest over safety standards

LARISA, Greece, March 2 (Reuters) – Rescue workers waded through charred and buckled train carriages to search for more victims in Greece’s deadliest train crash on Thursday, killing at least 46 people and sparking national outrage.

A high-speed passenger train carrying more than 350 passengers collided with a freight train near Larissa late on Tuesday. The carriages were thrown from the tracks, two were completely crushed and many more engulfed in flames.

“It’s a very difficult moment, we need to save bodies instead of saving lives,” rescuer Konstantinos Imanimidis, 40, told Reuters at the crash site about 130 miles (210 km) north of Athens.

“Temperatures of 1,200 degrees and above in the carriages would not allow anyone to survive.”

Nearby, two brothers sobbed, saying they had come to the crash site in hopes of getting news about their 60-year-old father, whose body the hospital could not say had been recovered.

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Many passengers had to kick through windows to escape the flames. Relatives had to give DNA samples to a hospital in Larissa to identify some of the victims, where disbelief turned to anger for some.

“Some bastard’s got to pay for this,” shouted a relative

Many of the dead were university students returning home after a long vacation and officials said the death toll was expected to rise. Scores were injured.

The wreck sparked sadness and anger across Greece, where the government declared three days of national mourning.

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Demonstrators threw rocks at train company offices in Athens before riot police fired tear gas. Protests also broke out in Thessaloniki.

On Thursday, trains were halted in a one-day strike against the demands of unions. Successive governments have refused to heed repeated requests to improve safety standards.

Newly appointed Transport Minister Giorgos Gerapetridis said he was tasked with investigating the causes behind the crash and modernizing the infrastructure, after his predecessor Kostas Karamanlis stepped down on Wednesday.

Investigation

The station master of Larissa railway station was arrested on Wednesday as authorities investigated the circumstances surrounding a passenger train en route to the northern city of Thessaloniki that collided with another train carrying shipping containers traveling in the opposite direction on the same track.

He was expected to be produced before a local magistrate on Thursday.

In a televised address on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had earlier visited the crash site, said evidence pointed to human error.

Nikos Tsouridis, a retired train driver instructor, said human error does not fully explain what happened.

“The station master made a mistake and he admits it, but of course there should be a safety mechanism to back off,” he said.

Greece sold railway operator TRAINOSE to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 under its international bailout program.

The Italian operation is responsible for passenger and freight transport, and the Greek state-controlled OSE for infrastructure.

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Report by Lefteris Papatimas, Alexandros Avramidis, Renee Maltezou, Carolina Tagaris, Michele Kambas; By Renee Maltezou; Editing by John Stonestreet and Frank Jack Daniel

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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