Train crash in Greece kills at least 38 people, many of them likely students

Train crash in Greece kills at least 38 people, many of them likely students

LARISSA, Greece--At least 38 people were killed when a Greek passenger train collided head-on with a freight train late on Tuesday, derailing carriages which then burst into flames in the country's deadliest rail crash in living memory.

Many of the victims were thought to be university students returning home after a long holiday weekend. Officials said the death toll was expected to rise further - temperatures in one carriage had risen to 1,300 Celsius (2,370 F) after it caught fire.
Authorities are working to establish how the high-speed passenger train collided with another carrying shipping containers, coming in the opposite direction and on the same track at speeds thought to be up to 160 km (100 miles) per hour. "Everything in this tragedy points, unfortunately, mainly to human error," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address on Wednesday.
Passengers described a "nightmarish" crash which engulfed their train in flames just before midnight near the central town of Larissa, some 200 miles north of Athens. It had departed from the Greek capital and was headed to the northern city of Thessaloniki.
Some kicked through windows to escape the inferno. Others were flung up to 40 metres (130 ft) on impact. "There was panic... The fire was immediate. As we were turning over we were being burned, fire was right and left," said Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old who jumped to safety.
"Windows were being smashed and people were screaming... One of the windows caved in from the impact of iron from the other train," another passenger, who escaped from the fifth carriage, told Skai TV.
A station master was arrested as investigators tried to work out why the two trains had been on the same track "for many kilometres", while the country's transport minister resigned.
As rescuers scoured the smouldering, mangled mass of steel in the morning, cranes lifted window-less carriages. Fire brigade spokesman Vassilis Varthakogiannis said the temperatures in the first carriage made it hard to identify those trapped inside, or say how many died. Based on that, the death toll was likely to rise, he said.
Flags flew at half-staff in Athens and in Brussels and the Greek government declared three days of national mourning. "It's an unthinkable tragedy. Our thoughts today are with the relatives of the victims," Mitsotakis, the prime minister, said at the site of the crash, looking shattered.
In later statements he said he had accepted the resignations of senior officials in rail operator OSE and its subsidiary ERGOSE. In Athens, around 1,000 people protested outside the offices of Hellenic Train, another branch of the rail network, where some hurled stones at windows. Police dispersed them with teargas.
Hellenic Train said it had suspended all scheduled trains on Thursday after railway workers said they would strike. "Pain has turned into anger for the dozens of dead and wounded colleagues and fellow citizens," the workers' union said in a statement announcing the strike. "The disrespect shown over the years by governments to the Greek railways led to the tragic result."
They said that their repeated calls for more permanent staff, more training, and the implementation of modern security technology had been ignored.

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