The death toll after two trains collided in Greece has risen to 57. Rescuers have given up hope of any more survivors. The stationmaster, who is in custody, sees himself as jointly responsible. It is said that he was far too inexperienced.
According to the authorities, the number of dead has risen to 57 after the worst train accident in the history of Greece. The emergency services continued their search for victims in the rubble of the two trains that collided with no hope of other survivors. "Instead of saving lives, we have to get corpses out," said an employee of the emergency services at the scene of the accident near the city of Larissa. The fire brigade assumed that the search for survivors would be stopped on Friday.
According to information from the authorities and railway workers, there were increasing indications that a railway employee had made the wrong decision in connection with inadequate safety technology. According to his lawyer, the station master on duty in Larissa admitted that he was partly responsible for the accident. The 59-year-old, who was responsible for train operations on the route at the time of the accident, was arrested on Wednesday and is in custody. He is accused of negligent homicide and bodily harm in numerous cases. "He is literally devastated," said his lawyer Stefanos Pantzartzidis. "He took his share of responsibility from the start." At first he couldn't say more.
On Greek television, a railway expert spoke of organizational and technical deficiencies that led to the accident. "They will blame everything on the station master," said retired train driver instructor Nikos Tsouridis. "He was trained but inexperienced. He should never have been entrusted with such an important station as Larissa, and certainly not alone." The man had only been deployed there for a month. In view of technical shortcomings, the Greek railway system only works because of its experienced employees. "Why weren't there any security measures?" Tsouridis asked. The station master made a mistake. "But of course there has to be a safety mechanism as a fallback option."
Late on Tuesday evening, an Intercity with around 350 people and an oncoming freight train collided head-on. Numerous people were injured. The government has ordered national mourning from Wednesday to Friday. Protests against the railway companies and the government broke out in several cities, including the capital Athens. Railroad workers went on strike across the country today, Thursday, to protest safety deficiencies. For years, governments have ignored calls for technical improvements, critics say. A government spokesman admitted that modernization of the railway system had been delayed for decades.
Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis had already announced his resignation on Wednesday and thus, according to his own statements, assumed responsibility for failures in the modernization of the railway network. The now appointed successor, Giorgos Gerapetritis, announced that the cause of the accident would be investigated and the railway system modernized. The railway network is in the hands of the Greek state railway company OSE. In addition to the transport minister, leading OSE managers had also resigned. Greece sold the train operator Trainose to the Italian state railway Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (FS) in 2017. The FS subsidiary now operates under the name Hellenic Trains.
There were many young people on the Intercity operated by Hellenic Trains, which was on its way from Athens to Thessaloniki. Although the railway line at the accident site has two tracks, the oncoming freight train was traveling on the same track. According to media reports, speeds of up to 160 kilometers per hour are planned on the route. In the head-on collision, the locomotives and several wagons were thrown off the tracks and largely destroyed. Some passenger cars caught fire. This is one of the reasons why emergency services spoke of the difficult identification of the victims.