Tuesday, March 21, 2023

‘Tragic human error’ caused Greece’s worst train crash: PM

“Everything shows that the drama was, sadly, mainly due to a tragic human error,” Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Wednesday said a “tragic human error” was likely responsible for a train collision that has left at least 38 dead in the country’s worst rail tragedy.

Two carriages were crushed and a third engulfed in fire when a passenger train and a freight train late Tuesday collided near the central city of Larissa, on a route plagued by years of safety warnings.

The fire department had earlier increased the death toll to 38, adding that 57 people were still hospitalised, six of them in intensive care, while several were missing.

“Everything shows that the drama was, sadly, mainly due to a tragic human error,” Mitsotakis — who is seeking re-election this year — said in a televised address.

He said it was a “terrible train accident without precedent” in Greece which would be “fully” investigated.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life,” said one rescue worker, emerging from the wreckage. “It’s tragic. Five hours later, we are finding bodies.”

In some cases, passengers are being identified from body parts, volunteer fireman Vassilis Iliopoulos told Skai TV, warning that the death toll would rise.

Seventeen biological samples have been collected from remains, and from 23 relatives seeking a match, the police said.

“It was the train of terror,” Pavlos Aslanidis, whose son is missing along with a friend, told reporters.

Greece’s transport minister submitted his resignation just hours after the accident.

“When something so tragic happens, we cannot continue as if nothing had happened,” Kostas Karamanlis said in a public statement.

On Wednesday evening, police in the capital Athens fired tear gas at protesters throwing rocks at the offices of the railway’s operating company, Hellenic Train.

The passenger train, carrying more than 350 people, had been travelling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The 59-year-old station master of Larissa was arrested several hours after the accident and charged with negligent homicide.

Government spokesman Yiannis Economou said the two trains were left running on the same track for “several kilometres”.

But train unionists said the station master was likely a scapegoat as the safety shortcomings of the Athens-Thessaloniki railway line had been known for years.

In an open letter in February, train staff said track safety systems were incomplete and poorly maintained.

A safety supervisor had resigned last year, warning that infrastructure upgrades pending since 2016 were incomplete and that train speeds of up to 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour were unsafe.

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