Train Crash in Greece Kills at Least 36

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A train with 350 passengers aboard collided with a freight train. Two of the carriages “basically don’t exist anymore,” a regional governor said.

  • Death Toll Climbs After Trains Collide in GreeceA train with about 350 passengers collided with a freight train near the city of Larissa in northern Greece.CreditCredit…Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Niki Kitsantonis

By Niki Kitsantonis

Reporting from Athens

March 1, 2023Updated 4:07 a.m. ET


At least 36 people were killed when a passenger train and a freight train collided in northern Greece, with an impact so intense that cranes were being used to remove wreckage in the search for survivors, a Greek fire service official said on Wednesday.

The cause of the crash, which happened just before midnight on Tuesday near the small town of Tempe, was not immediately clear. About 350 passengers were on the train as it traveled north from Athens to Thessaloniki, according to Hellenic Train, which operated the route.

TempeSite wheretrains collidedRoute of thepassenger trainheading towardThessalonikiTempeThessalonikiAthensGREECEALBANIALarissa

50 mi.

100 km.

© Mapbox © OpenStreetMap

By Pablo Robles

Eighty-five people were taken to hospitals with injuries, and 66 were admitted, the Greek fire service said in a statement. With the recovery operation still underway, there were fears that the death toll would rise.

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“Windows were shattering and people were screaming,” a young man, who was not identified, told a television crew after surviving the crash. “There was panic in the carriage. A huge chunk of metal from the other train had come through one of the windows.”

It was the worst rail disaster in Greek history, according to reports in Greek media. The deadliest crash in recent memory came in 1968, when a collision involving two passenger trains near Corinth, about 40 miles west of Athens, left 34 people dead.

Several carriages derailed upon impact, and at least three caught fire. A spokeswoman for the Greek police, Constantina Dimoglidou, said the process of identifying the dead had begun at a hospital in the city of Larissa, about 20 miles south of Tempe, asking relatives of passengers to call a hotline for information.

Most of the victims were young, the Greek health minister, Thanos Plevris, told reporters outside the hospital. “It is a terrible process for parents and relatives,” he said.

Asked by reporters about the cause of the crash, Mr. Plevris said that it was not the right time to focus on the circumstances of the disaster.

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“The priority now is to nurse the injured and support the families who have lost their loved ones. Everything else we will deal with afterward,” he said.

On Greek television, experts aired their concerns about rail safety in the country, claiming that there were problems that had not been addressed for decades, though it was not clear what led to the crash.

Destroyed carriages at the site of the train collision in northern Greece on Wednesday. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
Destroyed carriages at the site of the train collision in northern Greece on Wednesday. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.Credit…Angelos Tzortzinis for The New York Times
Destroyed carriages at the site of the train collision in northern Greece on Wednesday. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

“Nothing works,” Kostas Genidounias, president of the association of Greek train drivers, told state television.

“Everything is done manually,” he said, adding that neither the signals nor the traffic control system worked. “If they had been working, the drivers would have seen the red light and the trains would have stopped 500 meters away from each other,” he added, noting that he and colleagues had frequently reported malfunctioning systems recently.

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“We are constantly complaining about it,” he said.

Greece had already stood out in Europe for the lack of safety on its rail network. From 2018 to 2020, Greece had the highest railway fatality rate among 28 European countries per million train kilometers, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Agency for Railways. In 2019, the European Data Journalism Network, a group of media organizations, reported that from 2010 to 2018, 137 people died and 97 were seriously injured in railway accidents in Greece, with an average of more than 15 deaths and 11 serious injuries per year. The media network attributed the problems to unsafe level crossings, poor infrastructure and traffic management systems, and understaffed companies.

Vasileios Vathrakoyiannis, a spokesman for the fire service, said at a televised briefing that the rescue operation was “currently concentrated on the two first carriages of the passenger train, which have overturned.” He said four cranes were being used.

Television footage showed red cranes looming over the twisted, charred wreckage, as police and rescue workers in fluorescent jackets surveyed the scene.

“This is a terrible night,” Kostas Agorastos, governor of the Thessaly region, said on television. He said that two of the carriages “basically don’t exist anymore. Because of the strength of the impact they were thrown into the air.”

The army was assisting with the rescue operation, and the Greek minister for civil protection, Christos Stylianides, was coordinating the state’s response, while Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was on his way to the scene.

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Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident, told The Associated Press, “There were many big pieces of steel,” adding, “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

Mr. Polyzos said that he had seen people who appeared to be dazed and disoriented trying to flee from the trains as he arrived on the scene.

“People, naturally, were scared — very scared,” he said. “They were looking around, searching; they didn’t know where they were.”

Niki Kitsantonis is a freelance correspondent for The Times based in Athens. She has been writing about Greece for 20 years, including more than a decade of coverage for The Times. @NikiKitsantonis

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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