In Greece, a train accident leaves at least thirty-two dead and dozens injured

At the scene of the accident, smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers respond after a collision near the town of Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023.

At the scene of the accident, smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers respond after a collision near the town of Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023. VAGGELIS KOUSIORAS / AP

As often in this kind of disaster, the balance sheet evolves tragically. A collision between a freight train and a passenger train in Greece caused, on the night of Tuesday February 28 to Wednesday 1er March, at least thirty-two dead and dozens injured.

“The evacuation process is underway and is taking place under very difficult conditions due to the seriousness of the collision between the two trains”said Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, spokesman for the fire department, who also reported eighty-five people “wounded and transported to nearby hospitals”. Among them, “fifty-three people remain hospitalized”he added.

The passenger train made the connection between Athens and Thessaloniki, in the north of the country, while the freight train made the reverse route. According to the Greek media, it is the “worst train accident Greece has ever experienced”.

Mr Varthakoyiannis explained that wagons derailed near Larissa, in the center of the country 350 kilometers north of Athens, after the collision between the freight train and the other convoy carrying 350 passengers. A fire broke out and trapped several people inside the cars. “Wagons one and two no longer exist at all”he said on the Skaï TV channel.

Smoke and flames

Some one hundred and fifty firefighters, as well as forty ambulances, were mobilized, according to Greek relief. “I have never seen anything like it in my entire life. It’s tragic. Five hours later we find bodies”said a rescuer emerging, exhausted, from the carcass of which he tries with his team to extract the bodies of passengers.

Firefighters cannot access a car further. Under the violence of the shock, it was almost entirely pulverized by another car which overlapped it. Impressive images show a charred train car and the carcass of another bearing the inscription “Hellenic train”. Heavy smoke and flames emerge from other cars.

Some “194 people were transferred by bus to Thessaloniki. Among them, twenty-six were taken to hospitals.said the spokesman for the fire department.

A teenage survivor, who did not give his name, told Greek reporters as he got off one of the buses that just before the crash he felt heavy braking and saw sparks, then there had a sudden stop.

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“Our car did not derail, but those in front derailed and were crushed”, he said, visibly shocked. He said the first carriage caught fire and he used a bag to break his carriage window and get out.

The collision between a freight train and a passenger train occurred some 380 kilometers north of Athens, and led to the derailment of several cars, on the night of Tuesday February 28 to Wednesday March 1, 2023.

The collision between a freight train and a passenger train occurred some 380 kilometers north of Athens, and led to the derailment of several cars, on the night of Tuesday February 28 to Wednesday March 1, 2023. VAGGELIS KOUSIORAS / AP

“The train has completely turned over”

Kostas Agorastos, the governor of the region, described the collision as “very powerful”. “The front section of the train was smashed. (…) We bring in cranes and special hoists to clear the debris and lift the railcars. There is debris strewn all around the crash site”he explained.

“The train overturned completely and almost fell into the ravine, then half of the car started to catch fire”told a passenger to the Skai television channel.

On the local news site ThessToday, another young man confides “still in shock”. “We heard passengers screaming for help! »he adds.

Some, angry, demanded an explanation from the railway company. “I felt like something was wrong when we stopped. We were delayed due to heavy traffic on the train tracks, the driver told us we would be delayed fifteen minutes as it is a single track. We probably should have been delayed more, [ce] was not properly planned”enraged a passenger on the Mega TV channel.

“We have experienced something very shocking”said Lazos, another passenger interviewed by the newspaper Proto Thema. “I am not injured, but I am stained with the blood of the other people who were injured next to me”he said.

At the Thessaloniki station, it is also the anguish of families who are waiting for news of their loved ones. The train was notably full of students traveling between Athens and Thessaloniki. According to the mayor of Tempi, Yorgos Manolis, they were returning after a long weekend due to a public holiday in Greece.

A government crisis meeting was organised. Health Minister Thanos Plévris visited the scene, while Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos is overseeing the situation from the crisis management center with police and fire officials.

The two hospitals in the Larissa region have been requisitioned to accommodate the many injured, according to local media Onlarissa.

Le Monde with AP and AFP

The article is in French

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