At least 43 people have lost their lives after two trains collided in northern Greece, leaving rescuers searching late into the night for survivors amidst the wreckage. The crash resulted in the crumpling of carriages into twisted steel knots, making it the deadliest rail accident in the country’s history.
Passengers in the trains were thrown into the ceilings and out of the windows when the impact happened shortly before midnight on Tuesday. Stefanos Gogakos, a passenger who was in the rear car, reported that his head hit the roof of the carriage and windows shattered, showering riders with glass.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the incident as “a horrific rail accident without precedent in our country,” and pledged a full, independent investigation into the matter. He also stated that it seems the crash was “mainly due to a tragic human error,” although he did not provide any further details.
The train was traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki and was carrying 350 passengers, including many students who were returning from Carnival celebrations. Despite the double track, both trains were moving in opposite directions on the same line near the Vale of Tempe, a river valley situated approximately 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens.
The station master at the train’s last stop in the city of Larissa has been arrested and is responsible for rail traffic on that stretch of the tracks. He is due to appear before a prosecutor on Thursday to be formally charged. The reason for his arrest has not been disclosed.
Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned from his position, stating that he was stepping down “as a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly.” Karamanlis added that he had made “every effort” to improve the railway system, which he claimed had been “in a state that doesn’t befit the 21st century.”
However, he acknowledged that “when something this tragic happens, it’s impossible to continue as if nothing has happened.”