in anger Greece Railroad safety rose on Thursday as the death toll in one of the country’s worst rail disasters in recent years hit 57.
The demonstrators took to the streets after head-on collision between a passenger train carrying more than 350 people and a freight train on Tuesday evening in Tempi, near the city of Larissa.
Protesters clashed with police in the capital Athens, the country’s transport minister resigned after the tragedy, and the railroad union went on strike, accusing the government of “disrespect” in the sector.
Another 48 people remain in the hospital as a result of the accident, which overturned wagons and burned the wreckage. The six wounded who are being treated are in critical condition due to head injuries and serious burns, public broadcaster ERT said on Thursday.
After the head of the train station in Larisa was arrested in connection with the collision, Greek authorities also released startling audio footage Thursday showing one of the train drivers being instructed to ignore red lights.
“Go through the red light exit to the entrance to the Neon Poron traffic light,” the stationmaster can be heard saying.
Vasilis, can I go? the train driver replies, to which the trainmaster says, “Go, go.”
In the second conversation, the stationmaster can be heard ordering the employee to leave one of the trains on the same track.
“Shall I turn it now?” the employee asks.
“No, no, because 1564 is on this route,” says the stationmaster.
The head of the station was charged with mass deaths by negligence and causing grievous bodily harm through negligence. After his arrest, he blamed the collision on a technical malfunction, although he later admitted that he “made a mistake”.
Protesters once again gathered outside the central headquarters of the Greek railway company Hellenic Train in Athens on Thursday evening in a demonstration organized by students and workers’ unions.
The police were already outside the Hellenic Train headquarters before the demonstrators arrived. The protest was peaceful after Wednesday’s unrest, when demonstrators clashed with police.
Most of the passengers involved in the accident were young, a local hospital told ERT. The accident happened shortly after the holiday weekend.
According to the fire service, search and rescue operations will continue at the crash site on Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, relatives of the missing are still waiting for news of their loved ones as the identification process continues at Larisa General Hospital.
Speaking earlier to Greek media, Dimitris Burnazis, who is trying to get news about his father and brother, said no one had given him any information. Burnazis said he tried to contact the company to find out where his relatives were sitting on the train at the time of the crash. He said he called the Hellenic Train office three times, but no one called him back.
“The Prime Minister and the Minister of Health came here yesterday. Why? Do what? Explain what? Where are they today?” Burnazis told Greek broadcaster SKAI, adding that “no one has given us any information, no one knows how many people were actually inside.”
“We cannot blame just one person for this because of a mistake. Where is everyone else now? They are all waiting for the elections to speak out,” he said.
Speaking to ERT, passenger Andreas Alikaniotis, who was in the second car at the time of the collision, described the moments after the accident.
“What we did was smash the glass, which was already cracked, and throw the luggage outside the car so we could land on a soft spot,” he told ERT, describing how he helped save about 10 people.
“We jumped 3-4 meters,” he added, “first more seriously injured, and then we are with lighter injuries.”
Alikaniotis added that he remembers pulling up two or three girls and helping them get to the window to jump. “There was panic,” he added.
According to a 2022 report from the European Union Railways Agency, Greece has a weak passenger safety record in rail transport compared to other countries in Europe, recording the highest rate of deaths on railways per million train-kilometres from 2018 to 2020 among 28 countries on the continent. .
At an extraordinary meeting, the Hellenic Federation of Railway Workers unanimously decided to call a 24-hour strike on Thursday to draw attention to poor working conditions and chronic staff shortages.
He accused the federal government of “disrespecting” the railroads for the accident, stating that “more permanent staff, better training, and basically the implementation of modern safety systems are thrown in the trash forever.”
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 government’s legacy rail system “does not meet 21st century standards” when he stepped down from his post on Wednesday.
In a televised address after visiting the crash site, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the collision was “largely” due to “tragic human error”.
He said the Minister of Transport’s decision to step down was honorable and added that the executives of the Hellenic Railways Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE had also submitted their resignations.
Condolences poured in from all over the world, and three days of mourning continues in Greece.
Britain’s King Charles said in a statement that he and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, were “very shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the terrible incident.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts go out to the families of the victims of the terrible accident that happened last night near Larissa. France stands next to the Greeks.