Drone footage shows impact of Greek train collision with at least 36 dead
Updated 21:25, 01-Mar-2023
Destroyed carriages at the site of a collision between two trains near the city of Larissa in Greece. /Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters
Destroyed carriages at the site of a collision between two trains near the city of Larissa in Greece. /Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters

Destroyed carriages at the site of a collision between two trains near the city of Larissa in Greece. /Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters

A passenger train and a cargo train collided head-on in Greece on Tuesday night, killing at least 36 people and injuring dozens as the country's deadliest rail crash in living memory threw entire carriages off the tracks.

The death toll was expected to rise further, a fire brigade official said. Sixty-six of those injured were hospitalized, six of whom were in intensive care, the official said.

The crash occurred as the passenger train emerged from a tunnel. Derailed carriages, badly damaged with broken windows and thick plumes of smoke, could be seen at the site. One passenger carriage stood on its side at almost 90 degrees from the rest of the wrecked train, with other derailed carriages tilting precariously.

"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 passenger who jumped to safety from the wreckage.


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A passenger who escaped from the fifth carriage told Skai TV: "Windows were being smashed and people were screaming... One of the windows caved in from the impact of iron from the other train."

The passenger train was carrying 342 travelers and 10 crew, while two crew were on the cargo train, according to Hellenic Train data.

Many were evacuated to Thessaloniki, where one woman ran to embrace her daughter as she disembarked from a bus with other survivors.

"Mum don't, I'm hurt," the daughter said. Another woman, who was waiting there, said her child was not picking up the phone.

The head of the emergency unit in Larissa hospital Apostolos Komnos said most of the dead were young people, in their twenties. Many of the passengers would have been returning home after a long holiday weekend marking the beginning of Greek Orthodox lent. Thessaloniki has a large student population.


Head-on collision

The government declared three days of national mourning, from Wednesday to Friday, with flags flying at half-mast in a tribute to the victims of the crash.

"We still don't know the exact number of victims, we will investigate the reasons for (the crash) with full transparency," Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, in tears, told reporters.

One of the questions investigators need to answer is why the two trains were, according to Thessaly regional governor Konstantinos Agorastos, running on the same track when they crashed.


Police temporarily detained the station master in Larissa and at least three witnesses have been questioned, including a representative for Hellenic Train, a police official said.

Greece's aging railway system is in need of modernization, with many trains traveling on single tracks and signaling and automatic control systems still to be installed in many areas.

President Katerina Sakellaropoulou cut short a visit to Moldova to return to Greece. "Even at this moment, a life-saving operation is going on to help those who are on this death train," she told a news conference in the Molovan capital Chisinau.


In the morning, cranes were lifting derailed carriages, as rescuers scoured through the wreckage. ERT state TV showed one crew carrying what was thought to be a victim, covered in a white sheet, to an ambulance.

Fire brigade spokesperson Vassilis Varthakogiannis said the evacuation of passengers took place in very "difficult conditions given the severity of the collision of the two trains."

"We are living through a tragedy. We are pulling out people alive, injured...there are dead," he said.


The cargo train had been traveling from Thessaloniki to Larissa. Local media said the train left Athens around 7.30 p.m. (0530 GMT). The fire brigade said it was informed of the accident shortly before midnight.

Greece sold railway operator TRAINOSE to Italy's Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 as part of its international bailout programme, expecting hundreds of millions of euros to be invested in rail infrastructure in the coming years.

According to the Italian company's website, it is the main provider of rail transport for passengers and freight in Greece and runs 342 passenger and commercial routes a day.


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