Greece: Outrage as Greece admits ‘failures’ after fatal train crash

LARISSA: Greeks will hold a third day of protests across the country on Friday after a deadly train collision killed at least 57 people, sparking public criticism over government failures in the rail network.
Anger has been mounting since a freight train and a passenger train, carrying more than 350 people, collided head-on on Tuesday night near Larissa in central Greece.
Demonstrators are expected to hold silent protests Friday night in the capital Athens and several major cities across Greece, while unions have also urged railway workers to strike for a second straight day.
Greece’s rail services were brought to a standstill on Thursday by striking workers who say mismanagement of the network by successive administrations contributed to the fatal collision.
The railway union federation denounced a “lack of respect towards the Greek railway network by successive governments over the years, which has led to this tragic result”.
Angry protesters began gathering in Athens on Wednesday to demand answers over the country’s worst train disaster, before being dispersed by police using tear gas.
Around 700 angry protesters gathered outside the Athens headquarters of Greek rail operator Hellenic Train on Thursday.
“We are angry with the company, with the government and previous governments that have done nothing to improve conditions in the Greek railway,” said a pensioner Stavros Haves.
And in Thessaloniki – Greece’s second-largest city – police said a protest by around 2,000 protesters turned violent, with protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Government spokesman Yiannis Economou said an inquiry would look into “chronic delays in the implementation of railway works – delays caused by chronic public sector malaise and decades of failure”.
Authorities have blamed “human error” when seeking to explain the train collision, in which two carriages were torn down and a buffet car caught fire, trapping many victims inside.
“I believe that the responsibility, the negligence, the error were admitted by the station master,” Economou told reporters in Athens.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is seeking re-election this spring, said after visiting the crash site on Wednesday: “Everything shows that the tragedy was, unfortunately, mainly due to tragic human error.”
“Full Assessment”
But rail unions say safety issues on the Athens-Thessaloniki rail line have been known for years.
The lawyer for the 59-year-old station master, who is charged with negligent homicide, said his client had admitted partial responsibility for the crash, but stressed there were other factors at play.
“My client has assumed his share of the responsibility. But you shouldn’t focus on a tree when there is a forest behind it,” lawyer Stefanos Pantzartzidis said on Thursday.
Public broadcaster ERT noted that the station chief was only appointed to the post 40 days ago, after training that lasted just three months.
For decades, Greece’s 2,552-kilometre (1,585-mile) rail network has been plagued by mismanagement, poor maintenance and outdated equipment.
The country’s transport minister resigned on Wednesday following the accident.
His replacement Giorgos Gerapetritis presented an “apology” to the families of the victims and promised a “comprehensive assessment of the political system and the state”.
Safety systems on the line are still not fully automated, five years after the Greek public rail operator Trainosis was privatized and sold to the Italian Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane and became Hellenic Train.
The company said on Wednesday it was working with authorities and had offered “financial support” to passengers.
horror scenes
US President Joe Biden offered his condolences on Thursday for the “tragic train wreck“.
The passenger train traveled several miles on the same track as an incoming freight train, apparently after the station master at Larissa failed to re-route one of the trains.
Survivors described scenes of horror and chaos as the accident happened.
Many dodged broken glass and debris as the train overturned and smashed windows to get out.
The train’s buffet car caught fire, with temperatures inside reaching 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,370 Fahrenheit), firefighters said.
For hours after the collision, it was not immediately clear how many people were on board, complicating efforts to determine how many are missing.
Roubini Leontari, the chief coroner at Larissa General Hospital, told ERT on Thursday that more than 10 people were still missing, including two Cypriot nationals.
Hospitals in three towns – Larissa, Thessaloniki and Katerini – were treating the dozens of injured, six of whom were in intensive care.
Hundreds of people gathered in Larissa to donate the blood needed to treat the injured.


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