Greece train crash: Protests erupt in Athens after fatal collision

(CNN) Protesters poured into the streets of Greece after a head-on collision between two trains killed dozens and left many injured, amid anger over the country’s poor record on rail 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 night in Tempi, near the city of Larissa, leaving at least 46 people dead and many injured. The death toll is expected to rise.

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

A further 52 people are still in hospital as a result of the accident, which left overturned carriages and burnt debris in its wake. Six of the injured who are being treated are in a critical condition due to head injuries and serious burns, the state-owned public broadcaster ERT reported on Thursday.

Most of the passengers involved in the accident were young, a local hospital tells ERT. The accident came just after a holiday weekend.

The identification process of the dead is ongoing along with recovery efforts involving firefighters and ambulance workers, focusing on the first carriages of the passenger train, Greek authorities said.

Protests targeted the offices of the Greek railway company, Hellenic Train, in Athens

An aerial drone photo taken Wednesday shows emergency crews searching the wreckage of the crash, which killed dozens and left many injured.

‘Pain has turned to anger’

Greece has a poor record for rail passenger safety compared to other countries in Europe, recording the highest rail death rate per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 among 28 nations on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Agency for Railways.

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

It accused the federal government of “lack of respect” towards railways for causing the tragic crash, saying that “more permanent staff, better training and mainly the implementation of modern safety systems are being permanently trashed.”

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

Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said the rail system the government inherited was “not up to 21st century standards” as he stepped down from his role on Wednesday.

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

He said the transport minister’s decision to resign was honourable, adding that the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE have also submitted their resignations.

Protesters, pictured on Wednesday, clash with riot police in the streets of Athens, after Tuesday’s clash killed dozens and left many injured.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis attributed the crash to “tragic human error” while visiting the scene of the incident in Tempi on Wednesday.

A station manager at a train station in the city of Larissa was arrested in connection with the collision, as part of the investigation into the incident.

The 59-year-old man in question was charged with mass death through negligence and causing grievous bodily harm through negligence, Larissa police said.

According to ERT, the station manager, who is being questioned for his role in the collision, has admitted to having “made a mistake”.

Condolences poured in from all over the world, while a three-day mourning period continues in Greece.

CNN’s Heather Chen, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jennifer Hauser contributed reporting.

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