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Map of Greece with the train crash site marked.
09 Mar 2023

Fire bombs thrown at police and tear gas used on demonstrators over deadly railway accident

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Siemens/Bombardier UIC-Z1 coaches of Hellenic Train that are used on InterCity services in Greece. Wikipedia Commons License.
Siemens/Bombardier UIC-Z1 coaches of Hellenic Train that are used on InterCity services in Greece. Wikipedia Commons License.

57 or more people were killed when a passenger train carrying around 350 people collided with a freight train on Tuesday in Tempi, near the city of Larissa in Greece.

UPDATED MARCH 9

Mass demonstrations have turn violent in several Greek cities since the accident

Police and protesters have clashed in several cities in Greece. Demonstrators have allegedly thrown fire bombs and stones and the police allegedly used tear gas.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated on Wednesday in Athens and in several other cities. Anger has arisen among the Greek population about  the train accident just over a week ago, where 57 people lost their lives.

Unions and student associations organize the demonstrations. 

In the city of Larissa, near the train collision, students have been observed holding black balloons shouted with the text "we say no to profits at the expense of our lives".

A trike in the transports sector has been  paralyzing large parts of the country's communications. Ferries  servicing Greece's islands and the mainland are stuck in port and other public transport is non operational.

Greece's transport minister handed in  his resignation shortly after the accident "out of respect" for those who died.

Many people consider Greece to have an outdated railway system, and blame failing or aging technical equipment and systems for the accident.  Many sections are single-track and automatic signaling systems are still missing in several areas.

As part of measures to overcome the country´s debt crisis, Greece sold its railway company Trainose to Italy in 2017.

 

UPDATED MARCH 6

Protests over the train collision that claimed at least 57  lives last week have turned violent over the weekend. According to an article in CNN; police have used teargas to break up demonstrators outside the parliament on Sunday in Athens. 

The anger among the protesters is fuelled by the idea that the train collision was to be blamed on the aging and underfunded rain and train system in Greece. 

In a statement released Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it "should not be possible for two trains moving in opposite directions to be on the same track and not be noticed by anyone.”

“As prime minister, I owe everyone, but above all to the relatives of the victims, a big sorry. Both personally, and in the name of all those who ruled the country for years,” Mitsotakis said.

 

By NikolasSkevis1 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=129289024
By NikolasSkevis1 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=129289024

UPDATED MARCH 2:

Most of the passengers involved in the accident were young, a local hospital told the Greek broadcasting news company ERT. The accident occurred  in close connection to a holiday weekend.

Search and rescue operations will continue on Friday at the site of the crash in ​Tempi, near the city of Larissa, according to the Fire Service.

According to the BBC, Eleni Zaggelidou, who was one of ten coroners working on the investigation, said DNA samples had been taken from 57 intact bodies. 

Rail workers held a one-day strike on Thursday following the accident, blaming the accident on government neglect to adress the aging technology in the railway system. 

According to CNN, a group of angry protesters got into conflicts with police on Thursday in the Greek capital of Athens. The clash occured outside the headquarters of Hellenic Train, which is  the company responsible for maintaining Greece's railways.

Greece has allegedly, as stated in the CNN article, not the best record for railway passenger safety compared with other countries in Europe. CNN claims, with reference to a 2022 report from the European Union Agency for Railways, that Greece recorded the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 among 28 nations on the European continent. 

According to Swedish news station SVT.se, the rail workers union has listed 8 railway workers among those killed in the accident. Among those railway workers killed,  allegedly four are train drivers who were inside the locomotives involved in the head on collision.    

 

Originally written on March 1:

According to an article on CNN, the Greek Fire Service said 66 people were being treated for their injuries in hospital, with six in intensive care units.

At least 57 people were killed in or in connection to the accident as per official statements on Thursday. 

Most of the passengers involved in the accident were young, according to a statement by the head of the local intensive care unit (ICU) at the hospital where the injured are being treated, as told to Greek TV News station ERT Wednesday.

According to the BBC, the incident occured when the passenger train emerged from a tunnel in the municipality of Tempi.

The first four carriages of the passenger train were derailed, and the first two caught fire and were "almost completely destroyed", according to Thessaly regional governor Kostas Agorastos. 

 

Other media reports claim at least three railway cars caught fire. There are media reports that 25 are seriously injured and that 85 in total have been injured. 

According to AP News, the accident occurred just after 11 pm local time on Tuesday evening. The accident occurred in the municipality of Temi, about 380 kilometers from the capital of Athens. A large part of the killed and injured are thought to be students. 

 

High temperatures complicated identification of victims

The Greek fire department has said identifying people has proved to be very difficult, especially since temperatures were very high .

Allegedly the fire burned hotter than 1,300C / 2372 F  inside the burning railway cars where the fire broke out. Other media reports that the temperature inside the railway cars were between 1200 and 1500 Celsius. 

It is still unclear what caused the crash. The regional governor claims that the two services were running on the same track. According to Reuters´ News Service, Greece has an aging railway system and many tracks are being used by traffic in both directions at different times during a given day. Greece allegedly sold their public railroad company Trainoise in 2017. 

A local station master, based at the Larissa station, has been arrested. Police say the 59-year-old has been charged with manslaughter by negligence and grievous bodily harm by negligence.

The arrested station master, who was in charge of signalling, has blamed the accident on a possible technical failure. The station master denies any wrongdoing on his part. 

 

Transport minister takes on indirect responsibility for Greece´ aging railway systems  

Three days of national mourning has been declared by the Greek government. The transport minister Kostas Karamanlis has resigned as a "sign of respect" for the people who have died. He said, allegedly, that by resigning he was taking responsibility for the government's failure to modernise the country's railways.