© Reuters. A man walks at the site of an accident, where two trains collided, near the town of Larissa, Greece, March 1, 2023. REUTERS/Kostas Mantziaris
ATHENS (Reuters) – Twenty-six people were killed and at least 85 injured after two trains collided head-on in Greece late on Tuesday evening, firefighters said, as the cause of Greece’s deadliest train crash since decades remained uncertain.
An intercity passenger train traveling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki collided with a freight train outside the city of Larissa in central Greece, the governor of the Thessaly region has said .
The impact caused a number of passenger cars to burn, burning many commuters who were rushed to hospitals.
“We heard a big bang, (it was) 10 nightmarish seconds,” said Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old passenger who jumped to safety from the wreckage.
“We were turning around in the wagon until we fell sideways…then there was panic, cables (everywhere) shot, fire was immediate, as we turned around we were burned, the fire was right and left.”
Thessaly regional governor Konstantinos Agorastos told SKAI TV that the first four carriages of the passenger train derailed in the accident, while the first two carriages, which caught fire, were “almost completely destroyed”.
Around 250 passengers were safely evacuated to Thessaloniki in buses. A passenger told public broadcaster ERT he managed to escape after smashing the train window with his suitcase.
“There was panic in the car, people were screaming,” a young man who was evacuated to a nearby bridge told SKAI TV.
“It was like an earthquake,” Angelos Tsiamouras, another passenger, told ERT.
Broadcaster SKAI showed footage of derailed, badly damaged cars with broken windows and thick plumes of smoke, as well as debris strewn across the road. Rescuers were seen carrying torches into cars searching for trapped passengers.
“The evacuation of passengers is taking place under very difficult conditions given the seriousness of the collision of the two trains,” firefighter spokesman Vassilis Varthakogiannis said in a televised address.
In the early hours of Wednesday, footage from public broadcaster ERT showed rescuers with headlights searching the wreckage and surrounding fields for survivors.
“We are living a tragedy. We are removing people alive, injured… there are dead. We will stay here all night, until we are finished, until we find the last person” , a volunteer first aider told the ERT. state broadcaster.
Local media reported that around 350 people were traveling on the passenger train, which left Athens around 7:30 p.m. (0530 GMT). Firefighters said they were notified of the accident shortly before midnight on Tuesday. The freight train was traveling from Thessaloniki to Larissa.
In 1972, 19 people were killed when two trains collided head-on outside Larissa.
The passenger train is operated by the Italian group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, which, according to its website, is the main provider of passenger and freight rail transport in Greece and operates 342 passenger and commercial lines daily.