Greek Train Crash

A passenger train carrying hundreds of people collided at high speed with an oncoming freight train in a fiery wreck in northern Greece, killing 43 and injuring at least 72, officials said Wednesday.

Greek Train Crash
March 1, 2023 7:40 am
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A passenger train carrying hundreds of people collided at high speed with an oncoming freight train in a fiery wreck in northern Greece, killing 43 and injuring at least 72, officials said Wednesday.

Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flames after the collision near the town of Tempe on Tuesday just before midnight. Rescue crews illuminated the scene with floodlights before dawn as they searched frantically through the twisted, smoking wreckage for survivors.

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 380 kilometres 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.”

The trains crashed just before the Vale of Tempe, a gorge that separates the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the Thessaly area, told Greece’s Skai television the two trains crashed head-on at high speed.

“Carriage one and two no longer exist, and the third has derailed,” he said.

Rescuers wearing headlamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled metal from the cars to search for trapped people. Others scoured the field with flashlights and checked underneath the wreckage. Several of the dead are believed to have been found in the restaurant area near the front of the passenger train.

Hospital officials in the nearby city of Larissa said at least 25 of those hurt had serious injuries.

“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,” said Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesperson for Greece’s firefighting service.

Ioannis Xanthopoulos, head of the rescue team in Larisa, added that a fire made rescue efforts “really difficult.”

“The firefighters put out the fire but we were not able to get there quickly because the heat was terrible.”

The possible cause of the collision was not immediately clear. Two rail officials were being questioned by police but had not been detained.

While visiting the crash site, the country’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised: “We will find the causes of this tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

Passengers with minor injuries or who were unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometres to the north. Police took their names as they arrived, in an effort to track anyone who may be missing.

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