An accident in central Greece on Tuesday evening left dozens of people dead and scores injured.
The head-on collision between two trains near Larissa has left strewn carriages and heaps of debris as rescue workers search for survivors.
At least 38 people died when a passenger train carrying over 350 passengers collided with a freight train. The Greek Fire Service reported that 66 people were being treated for injuries, with six hospitalized in intensive care units, per CNN.
The majority of the passengers involved in the accident were young, the head of the ICU at a local hospital told reporters, per CNN. The identification process of victims has started, and the Greek health minister has acknowledged that there are some challenges with the process.
State-owned public broadcaster ERT reported that the two trains were on the same track for several miles before the accident. The passenger train switched lanes to a cargo track before colliding head-on with the freight train. The Larissa station master has reportedly claimed responsibility this mistake and has been arrested by the Greek authorities.
According to ERT, the station master could face life imprisonment if criminal proceedings are brought against him. Potential charges he might face include the disruption of the safety of transportation resulting in death, as well as negligent serial manslaughter and negligent serial assault.
Survivors of the collision described it as a nightmarish crash, according to Reuters. Some passengers were flung up to 40 yards on impact. Others kicked through windows to escape the fire.
Efforts are still underway to recover the wreckage, with a focus on the first carriages of the passenger train, according to CNN. The Greek Fire Service has said that the death toll is likely to increase, and the rescue operation involves 150 firefighters, special rescue units, and numerous vehicles and ambulances.
As CNN reported, Hellenic Train released a press statement about the crash, saying that the head-on collision was between a freight train and IC 62, which was en route from Athens to Thessaloniki. The company operated both trains.
The European Union Agency for Railways reported last year that Greece had the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 compared to 28 other countries in the region, per CNN.
Kostas Karamanlis, Greek transport minister, cited this poor track record during a press conference on Wednesday, while claiming that he made “every effort to improve this reality,” according to CNN.
“I hand in my resignation as transport and infrastructure minister. It is what I feel is my responsibility to do as the minimum sign of respect to the memory of the people who died so unjustly,” Karamanlis said.
Greek government officials have announced a three-day mourning period with flags at half-staff until Friday.
According to CNN, the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, told reporters from the site of the accident on Wednesday, “It is very difficult what we are experiencing today as a country. We are talking about an unspeakable tragedy.”
Other world leaders expressed similar sentiments.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna conveyed her sympathies to the people of Greece on Twitter, saying, “My heart breaks for the Greek people and I send my profound condolences to the victims and their families following the tragic train disaster in Greece near Larissa.”