Station master arrested after 'nightmare' train collision in Greece leaves 36 dead

1 March 2023, 06:24 | Updated: 1 March 2023, 14:16

The train crash has killed at least 36 people
The train crash has killed at least 36 people. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

A station master has been arrested after two trains collided in Greece, killing at least 36 people and injuring dozens more.

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The station master, 59, was charged with causing mass deaths through negligence and causing grievous bodily harm through negligence.

The man has denied any responsibility, according to a local police official, chalking it up to a possible technical failure.

The collision between a passenger train and a cargo train took place near Tempe, about 235 miles north of Athens, in the early hours of Wednesday.

Several carriages came off the rails, with at least three of them catching fire, police said.

Fire Service Officials said 36 people were killed and at least 85 were injured.

Many of the victims were thought to be university students on their way back from a long holiday weekend.

"The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out under very difficult conditions due to the severity of the collision between the two trains," spokesperson Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said.

Smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers operate after a collision near Larissa city
Smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers operate after a collision near Larissa city. Picture: Alamy

Hospital units used to treat burn victims had been alerted in the area, he said, adding that dozens of ambulances were involved in the rescue effort.

The cause of the rail crash remains unclear.

"It's an unthinkable tragedy. Our thoughts today are with the relatives of the victims," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the site of the crash.

"One thing I can guarantee; we will find out the causes of this tragedy and do anything in our power for it never to happen again."

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Several train cars were derailed
Several train cars were derailed. Picture: Alamy

Rescuers wearing head lamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled sheet metal from the crashed rail cars to search for trapped people.

"It was a very powerful collision. This is a terrible night... It's hard to describe the scene," Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the central Thessaly area, told state-run television.

"The front section of the train was smashed... We're getting cranes to come in and special lifting equipment to clear the debris and lift the rail cars. There's debris flung all around the crash site."

The collision between a freight and passenger train occurred near Tempe
The collision between a freight and passenger train occurred near Tempe. Picture: Alamy

Government officials said the army has been contacted to assist in the rescue.

Rail operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki had about 350 passengers on board when the collision occurred.

Passengers who received minor injuries or were unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 80 miles north of the incident.

"We are living through a tragedy. We are pulling out people alive, injured...there are dead. We are going to be here all night, until we finish, until we find the last person," a volunteer rescue worker told ERT state broadcaster.

Rescue workers and emergency personel search the wreckage
Rescue workers and emergency personel search the wreckage. Picture: Getty

Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars due to the impact.

They said others fought to free themselves after the passenger train buckled, slamming into a field next to the tracks near a gorge about 235 miles north of Athens where major highway and rail tunnels are located.

"There were many big pieces of steel," said Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident who was one of the first people on the scene.

"The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains."

He said dazed and disoriented people were escaping out of the train's rear cars as he arrived.

"People, naturally, were scared - very scared," he said. "They were looking around, searching; they didn't know where they were."

Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old passenger who jumped to safety from the wreckage, said: "We heard a big bang, (it was) 10 nightmarish seconds.

"We were turning over in the wagon until we fell on our sides...then there was panic, cables (everywhere) fire, the fire was immediate, as we were turning over we were being burned, fire was right and left."

A young man who was evacuated to a nearby bridge told SKAI TV: "There was panic in the carriage, people were screaming."

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