At least 36 dead and scores injured in head-on crash between two trains in Greece
At least 36 people have been killed and scores injured after a high-speed passenger train collided with an oncoming freight train in Greece, throwing entire carriages off the tracks.
Officials said that 66 of the injured have been hospitalised, of whom six are in intensive care. About 250 passengers were evacuated safely to Thessaloniki on buses.
The passenger train was carrying hundreds of people, including many university students returning home from a long weekend marking the start of Greek Orthodox Lent. The passenger train was carrying 342 travellers and 10 crew, while two crew were on the cargo train, according to Hellenic Train data.
Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flames after the collision just before midnight on Tuesday near the town of Tempe, as the passenger train was emerging from a highway underpass.
Tempe is a small town next to a valley where major highway and rail tunnels are located, around 380km (235 miles) north of Athens.
“There were many big pieces of steel,” said Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident who was one of the first people on the scene. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”
“The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out under very difficult conditions due to the severity of the collision between the two trains,” Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesperson for Greece’s firefighting service said.
“The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out under very difficult conditions due to the severity of the collision between the two trains,” Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesperson for Greece’s firefighting service was quoted as saying to Associated Press.
Dozens of ambulances have been alerted in the area as rescue efforts have continued through thick plumes of smoke to rescue any survivors from the wreckage.
“Our priority now is treating the injured, searching and finding missing people in the debris and offering psychological support to the relatives of the victims by psychologists who are heading to the Larissa city,” government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said.
Survivors said that the collision felt like an earthquake.
Due to the impact, several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train.
“Our carriage didn’t derail, but the ones in front did and were smashed,” said a teenage survivor who did not give his name.
He added that the first car caught fire and that he used a bag to break the window of his car, the fourth, and escape.
Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the Thessaly area, said the collision was “very powerful” and added that it was “a terrible night.”
“The front section of the train was smashed. … We’re getting cranes to come in and special lifting equipment to clear the debris and lift the rail cars. There’s debris flung all around the crash site.”
Speaking to Greece’s Skai television he said that the two trains crashed head-on at high speed.
“Carriage one and two no longer exist, and the third has derailed.”
According to rail operator Hellenic Train the passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, had about 350 passengers on board.