Rescue efforts in the aftermath of a head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train in Athens and Thessaloniki
Rescue workers are in a desperate search for survivors after a head-on collision between two trains in central Greece killed dozens of people and injured scores.
The Greek Fire Service said at least 32 people had died and more than 85 injured when a passenger train carrying over 350 people collided with a freight train.
“We just heard a bang… the (train) car started spinning, before ending up sideways when we managed to exit,” one male passenger told Greek public broadcaster ERT.
Recovery efforts are underway, with the focus on the first two carriages of the passenger train, the Greek Fire Service said. The death toll is expected to rise.
The passenger train was traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki, which is renowned for its festivals and vibrant cultural life. The carnival ended on a public holiday on Monday and there was a collision the day before.
There were images on Greece’s state-owned ERT showing thick smoke pouring out of the toppled carriages and long lines of rescue vehicles next to them.
Greek Fire Service spokesman Vassilis Varthakogiannis said 194 passengers had been taken safely to Thessaloniki and 20 people transferred by bus to the city of Larissa. He added that of the 85 people injured, 53 remained in hospital.
Rail operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, had about 350 passengers on board.
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Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flames after the collision near the town of Tempe on Tuesday just before midnight. Rescue crews illuminated the scene with floodlights before dawn on Wednesday as they searched frantically through the twisted, smoking wreckage for survivors.
Several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars, survivors said. The passenger train broke down and slammed into a field near the tracks in the north of Athens where major highway and rail tunnels are located.
The front section was badly damaged. We’re getting cranes to come in and special lifting equipment clear the debris and lift the rail cars. There’s debris flung all around the crash site.”
The trains crashed just before a gorge that separates Thessaly and Macedonia. The governor of the Thessaly area said on television that the two trains crashed head on.
Rescuers wearing head lamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled metal from the cars to search for trapped people. Others scoured the field with flashlights and checked underneath the wreckage. Several people are believed to have died near the front of the passenger train in the restaurant area.
“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,” said Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesperson for Greece’s firefighting service.
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