Greece train crash: Rail workers strike as anger over crash grows (video from crash)


Rail workers across Greece have begun a one-day strike after Tuesday’s train crash which killed at least 43 people.

“Pain has turned into anger for the dozens of dead and wounded colleagues and fellow citizens,” the workers’ union said in a statement.

The walkout follows protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and the city of Larissa, near the site of the disaster.

Rescue workers are still going through burned and buckled carriages, searching for victims.

This was the “most difficult moment”, rescuer Konstantinos Imanimidis told Reuters news agency, as “instead of saving lives, we have to recover bodies”.

The incident happened just before midnight on Tuesday. A passenger train carrying 350 people collide with a freight train after both ended up on the same track – causing the front carriages to burst into flames.


The railway workers’ strike began at 0600 local time (0400 GMT), affecting national rail services and the subway in Athens.

Many in Greece see the crash as an accident waiting to happen, and the union blamed successive governments’ “disrespect” towards Greek railways for leading to this “tragic result”.

A 59-year-old station master in Larissa has been charged with manslaughter by negligence and is due to appear in court on Thursday. He has denied any wrongdoing, blaming the crash on a technical fault.

The country’s transport minister has resigned over the incident, saying he would take responsibility for the authorities’ “long-standing failures” to fix a railway system that was not fit for the 21st Century.

Meanwhile, the government has promised an independent investigation that it promises will deliver justice.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s suggestion that “tragic human error” was to blame has caused anger.

Empty platform in Athens during rail workers' 24-hour strikeIMAGE SOURCE,REUTERS
Image caption,

Empty platform in Athens during rail workers’ 24-hour strike

On Wednesday, rioters clashed with police outside the headquarters of Hellenic Train in Athens – the headquarters of the company responsible for maintaining Greece’s railways.

Tear gas was used to disperse protesters, who threw stones and lit fires in the streets.

At a silent vigil in Larissa to commemorate the victims of the incident, one demonstrator said he felt the disaster had been long coming.

“The rail network looked problematic, with worn down, badly paid staff,” Nikos Savva, a medical student from Cyprus, told AFP news agency.

The station master arrested should not pay the price “for a whole ailing system”, he added.

“This is an inadmissible accident. We’ve known this situation for 30 years,” a doctor based in Larissa, Costas Bargiotas, told AFP.

Many of the passengers on board were students in their 20s returning to Thessaloniki after a long weekend celebrating Greek Orthodox Lent.

Fire brigade spokesperson Vassilis Varthakogiannis said temperatures inside the first carriage – which burst into flames – had reached 1,300C (2,370F), making it “hard to identify the people who were inside”.

Families have given DNA samples to help identification efforts, with the results expected on Thursday.

Kostas Malizos, a recently retired surgeon and Emeritus Professor at Greece’s University of Thessaly, has returned to work to perform surgery on injured passengers.

“Now we’re in the phase of trying to match the human parts that were found at the site of the crash and match it with DNA,” he told the BBC.

Local media have reported that more than 10 people are still missing, as Greece observes three days of national mourning.

But Professor Malizos has said it is difficult to tell how many people are unaccounted for.

He also questioned how the prime minister could have reached such a quick a conclusion that human error was to blame and said an extensive independent investigation was essential.

“It’s a disaster, it’s catastrophic. Families are crying tonight. Unfortunately, the majority of the lost people are young students. They left home, happy after the long weekend, to go for their studies or to see their relatives and never reached them.”

Image shows map of train crash and direction of trains travelling
Protesters outside the offices of Hellenic Train in Athens on 1 MarchIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption, Protesters gathered outside the offices of Hellenic Train in Athens
(video – πρώτο θέμα / φωτο – καθημερινή)