(CNN) anger in Greece The death toll from one of the worst train accidents in the country in recent years rose today, Thursday, due to poor railway safety, as the death toll reached 57.
Protesters poured into the streets after head-on collision Between a passenger train carrying more than 350 passengers and a freight train on Tuesday evening in Tempe, near the city of Larissa.
Protesters clashed with police in the capital, Athens, the country’s transport minister resigned in the wake of the tragedy, and the railway workers’ union went on strike, accusing the government of “disrespect” in the sector.
Another 48 people are still in hospital as a result of the accident, which left vehicles toppled and burning debris in its wake. Public broadcaster Broadcasting Corporation reported Thursday that six of the injured are in critical condition due to head injuries and severe burns.
After the arrest of a train station manager in Larissa in connection with the collision, Greek authorities on Thursday also released impressive audio recordings showing a train driver being instructed to ignore a red light.
The station master was heard to say, “Keep through the red light exit until you enter the traffic light for Neon Boron.”
“Vasilis, am I alright to go?” The train driver responds, and the skipper tells him “Go, go.”
In a second conversation, the station master can be heard ordering the clerk to keep one of the trains on the same track.
“Should I run it now?” the employee asks.
“No, no, because 1564 is on that road,” says the station master.
The stationmaster was charged with negligent homicide and grievous bodily harm through negligence. Upon his arrest, he blamed the collision on a technical malfunction, though he later admitted “making a mistake”.
Protests in Athens
Demonstrators gathered outside the Hellenic Train headquarters in central Athens again on Thursday evening in a demonstration organized by student and labor unions.
The police already had a presence outside the Greek train headquarters before the protesters arrived. The protest was peaceful, following unrest on Wednesday during which demonstrators clashed with police.
A local hospital told ERT that most of the passengers involved in the accident were young men. The accident happened shortly after the weekend.
Search and rescue operations will continue Thursday and Friday at the crash site, according to the fire service.
Meanwhile, relatives of the missing are still awaiting news about their loved ones as the identification process continues at Larisa General Hospital.
In a previous interview with the Greek media, Dimitris Bornazis, who is trying to get news about his father and brother, said that no one gave him any information. Bornazzis said he was trying to contact the company to find out where his relatives were sitting on the train at the time of the accident. He said he called the Greek train offices three times but no one contacted him.
“The prime minister and the health minister came here yesterday. Why? To do what? To explain what? Where are they today?” “No one has given us any information, no one knows how many people are actually inside,” Bornazis told Greece’s Sky station.
“We can’t blame just one person for this being wrong. Where is everyone now? They are all waiting for the election to speak,” he said.
Speaking to ERT, passenger Andreas Alikaniotis, who was in the second carriage during the collision, described the moments after the accident.
“What we did was break the glass, which was already cracked, and throw the luggage out of the carriage, so we could land somewhere quietly,” he told ERT, describing how he helped about 10 people escape.
He added, “We jumped 3 to 4 metres. First, we were injured more seriously, and then we lightened our injuries.”
Alikaniotis added that he remembers grabbing two or three girls and helping them reach a window to jump out. “There was panic,” he added.
“Pain turned into anger”
Greece has a poor record for rail passenger safety compared to other countries in Europe, having the highest rate of railway fatalities per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 out of 28 countries on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Rail Agency.
In an extraordinary meeting, the Greek Federation of Railway Workers unanimously decided to start a 24-hour strike on Thursday to highlight poor working conditions and chronic staff shortages.
She accused the federal government of “disrespecting” the railways for causing the collapse, saying, “More permanent staff, better training, and mainly the application of modern security systems, are permanently thrown into the trash.”
Separately, Greek metro workers announced another 24-hour strike, saying in a statement: “There are no words to describe such a tragedy.”
Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said the railway system inherited by the government was “not up to 21st century standards” after he stepped down on Wednesday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address after visiting the crash site that the collision was “due to” tragic human error”.
He said that the decision of the Minister of Transport to resign was honorable, and added that the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE have also submitted their resignations.
Condolences have poured in from around the world, while a three-day mourning period is underway in Greece.
Britain’s King Charles said in a statement that he and his wife Camilla, Queen Consort, were “deeply shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the terrible incident.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts are with the families of the victims of the horrific accident that occurred last night near Larissa. France stands with the Greeks.”
CNN’s Heather Chen, Muhammad Tawfiq, Jennifer Hauser and Max Foster contributed to reporting.
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