According to the fire department, at least 32 people died in the serious train accident in Greece on Wednesday night. Another 53 people were seriously injured and treated in hospitals. "The search and rescue operation is ongoing," said a spokesman for the fire department on state television. "It's a tragedy," said a firefighter on state television from the scene of the accident near the city of Larissa.
Rescuers used cranes and other heavy equipment to try to lift the derailed wagons to search for survivors and victims, reporters at the scene said.
Videos show debris
No details were available from official sources about the circumstances of the accident. According to the first information from railway workers, a passenger train that started from Athens collided head-on with a freight train coming from the opposite direction - from the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki. The passenger train was the Intercity 62, which left Athens for Thessaloniki last night at 7:22 p.m. with around 350 passengers.
Greek television showed videos from the scene of the accident near Tempi in central Greece. Firefighters and rescue workers tried to find survivors in the rubble. A survivor said fire broke out on the passenger train after the collision. "There was chaos and a hell of a noise," he added on state television. "We smashed the window panes with our suitcases and groped our way out of our wagon in the dark," said a young man.
There were problems despite modernization
The causes are now being sought. The railway boss responsible for the route of the accident was arrested, reported state television. The route, which connects Athens with the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki, has been modernized in recent years. The Greek railways (Hellenic Train) are operated by the Italian state railway Ferrovie dello Stato Italiano (FS).
Despite the modernization with new bridges and tunnels and two tracks along the entire 500-kilometer Athens-Thessaloniki route, there are significant problems with the electrical coordination of traffic control. "We drive from one part of the line to the other by radio like in the old days. The station managers give us the green light," said Kostas Genidounias, president of the train drivers' union on state radio. He was unable to say why this is happening and why no modern control system works.