Greece Mourns Worst Rail Disaster in Living Memory
On Tuesday night, the worst rail disaster in Greece's living memory occurred when a passenger train and cargo train collided head-on outside the town of Tempe. The passenger train, carrying 342 passengers and 10 staff members, was travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki at a speed of 103 miles per hour when it switched lanes and collided with the freight train. Witnesses described the front two carriages of the passenger train as being completely destroyed.
The tragedy has left 46 dead and more than 80 injured. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has declared three days of national mourning and vowed a full and independent investigation into the cause of the crash. The investigation is expected to determine if the crash was the result of “tragic human error.” In response to the tragedy, the Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned, saying it was his “duty” to do so “as a minimum sign of respect” to the victims.
In addition, the Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival has cancelled its opening ceremony and all related events due to the crash. The Greek government has also acknowledged that the country's railway safety record is poor compared to other European nations, with the highest fatality rate per million train kilometers from 2018-2022.
Survivors of the crash described heart-wrenching scenes, with several passengers thrown through the windows of the train cars and others struggling to free themselves after the train buckled and slammed into a field next to the tracks. Larissa's chief coroner, Roubini Leondari, said 43 bodies had been brought to her for examination and would require DNA identification.
The Greek government is hoping that the crash will be a catalyst for improved railway safety, with Prime Minister Mitsotakis asking the new interim Transport Minister George Gerapetritis to establish an “independent and non-partisan committee of experts” to investigate the cause of the accident and investigate the “long-standing delays” in the implementation of railway projects.
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