By COSTAS KANTOURIS and NICHOLAS PAPHITIS (Associated Press)
TEMPE, Greece (AP) — Rescuers searched late into the night time Wednesday for survivors amid the mangled, burned-out wrecks of two trains that collided in northern Greece, killing at the least 43 folks and crumpling carriages into twisted metal knots within the nation’s deadliest rail crash.
The impression simply earlier than midnight Tuesday threw some passengers into ceilings and out the home windows.
“My head hit the roof of the carriage with the jolt,” Stefanos Gogakos, who was in a rear automobile, advised state broadcaster ERT. He stated home windows shattered, showering riders with glass.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred to as the collision of the passenger practice and a freight practice “a horrific rail accident without precedent in our country,” and pledged a full, unbiased investigation.
He stated it appeared the crash was “mainly due to a tragic human error,” however didn’t elaborate.
The practice from Athens to Thessaloniki was carrying 350 passengers, lots of them college students getting back from raucous Carnival celebrations. While the monitor is double, each trains have been touring in reverse instructions on the identical line close to the Vale of Tempe, a river valley about 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens.
STATIONMASTER ARRESTED; MINISTER RESIGNS
Authorities arrested the stationmaster on the practice’s final cease, within the metropolis of Larissa. They didn’t launch the person’s identify or the rationale for the arrest, however the stationmaster is accountable for rail site visitors on that stretch of the tracks. He was as a consequence of seem earlier than a prosecutor Thursday to be formally charged.
Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned, saying he was stepping down “as a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly.”
Karamanlis stated he had made “every effort” to enhance a railway system that had been “in a state that doesn’t befit the 21st century.”
But, he added, “When something this tragic happens, it’s impossible to continue as if nothing has happened.”
The union representing practice employees introduced a 24-hour strike for Thursday, whereas protests by left-wing teams broke out in Athens late Wednesday. Athens metro employees additionally referred to as a 24-hour strike for Thursday, saying they face comparable issues as railway staff.
WRECKAGE MAKES RESCUE EFFORTS DIFFICULT
Emergency employees used cranes and different heavy equipment to maneuver giant items of the trains, revealing extra our bodies and dismembered stays. The operation was to proceed in a single day, with firefighters continuing painstakingly by means of the wreckage.
“It’s unlikely there will be survivors, but hope dies last,” rescuer Nikos Zygouris stated.
Larissa’s chief coroner, Roubini Leondari, stated 43 our bodies had been dropped at her for examination and would require DNA identification as they have been largely disfigured.
“Most (of the bodies) are young people,” she advised ERT. “They are in very bad condition.”
Greece’s firefighting service stated 57 folks remained hospitalized late Wednesday, together with six in intensive care. More than 15 others have been discharged after receiving therapy.
More than 200 individuals who have been unhurt or suffered minor accidents have been taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the north. Police took their names as they arrived, in an effort to trace anybody who could also be lacking.
Hellenic Train, which operates all of Greece’s passenger and cargo trains, together with those who collided, provided its “heartfelt condolences” to the victims’ households. The firm belongs to Italy’s state railways.
Eight rail staff have been among the many useless, together with the 2 drivers of the freight practice and the 2 drivers of the passenger practice, based on Yannis Nitsas, president of the Greek Railroad Workers Union.
The union referred to as the one-day strike to protest what it stated was continual neglect of Greece’s railways by successive governments.
“Unfortunately, our long-standing demands for staff hirings, better training and above all use of modern safety technology always end up in the wastepaper basket,” it stated in a press release.
PASSENGERS SAY TRAIN CRASH WAS LIKE AN EXPLOSION
A teenage survivor who didn’t give his identify to reporters stated that simply earlier than the crash he felt sudden braking and noticed sparks — after which there was a sudden cease.
“Our carriage didn’t derail, but the ones in front did and were smashed,” he stated, visibly shaken. He used a bag to interrupt the window of his automobile, the fourth, and escape.
Gogakos stated the crash felt like an explosion, and a few smoke entered the carriage. He stated some passengers escaped by means of home windows however that after a couple of minutes, crew members have been in a position to open the doorways and let folks out.
Multiple automobiles derailed, and at the least one burst into flames.
“Temperatures reached 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,372 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes it even more difficult to identify the people who were in it,” fireplace service spokesperson Vassilis Varthakoyiannis stated.
A person who was attempting to establish the destiny of his daughter, who was on the practice, stated he had a harrowing telephone dialog together with her earlier than she was reduce off.
“She told me, ‘We’re on fire. … My hair is burning,’” he advised ERT, with out giving his identify.
GREECE GOES FROM CARNIVAL TO MOURNING
Many of the passengers have been college students returning to Thessaloniki from Carnival, however officers stated however no detailed passenger checklist was obtainable. This 12 months was the primary time the pageant, which precedes Lent, was celebrated in full for the reason that begin of the pandemic in 2020.
The authorities declared three days of nationwide mourning from Wednesday, whereas flags flew at half-staff exterior all European Commission buildings in Brussels.
Visiting the accident scene, Prime Minister Mitsotakis stated the federal government should assist the injured get well and determine the useless.
“I can guarantee one thing: We will find out the causes of this tragedy, and we will do all that’s in our power so that something like this never happens again,” Mitsotakis stated.
It was the nation’s deadliest rail crash on file. In 1968, 34 folks died in a crash within the southern Peloponnese area.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou broke off an official go to to Moldova to go to the scene, laying flowers beside the wreckage.
Pope Francis provided condolences to the households of the useless in a message despatched to the president of the Greek bishops convention by the Vatican’s secretary of state,
Condolences poured in from world wide, together with neighboring Turkey, Greece’s historic regional rival. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed sorrow and desires for a speedy restoration for these injured, his workplace stated.
Despite the frosty relations between the 2 NATO members, Greece’s management had referred to as Erdogan final month following an enormous earthquake that killed tens of hundreds in Turkey.
In Athens, a number of hundred members of left-wing teams marched late Wednesday to protest the practice deaths. Minor clashes broke out as some protesters threw stones on the workplaces of Greece’s rail operator and riot police and set dumpsters on fireplace. No arrests or accidents have been reported.
Paphitis reported from Athens, Greece. Derek Gatopoulos in Athens and Patrick Quinn and David Rising in Bangkok contributed to this story.