The search for a train wreck site in Greece is coming to an end
Firefighters in Greece began a grueling search at the scene of the country’s deadliest train crash on Friday as authorities notified relatives of some of the victims, identified by their DNA, and other families desperately sought information on missing loved ones.
The crash happened late Tuesday near the Vale of Tempe in northern Greece after a passenger train carrying more than 350 people and a freight train crashed into each other on the same tracks for 12 minutes.
Railway workers in Greece went on strike for a second day, a reflection of growing anger over the accident, which killed at least 57 people, and general concerns about the country’s railway safety, the worst in Europe.
As part of their investigation, investigators combed through audio files, documents and notes from the Larissa train station, about 17 miles from the crash site.
The 59-year-old stationmaster, who has not been publicly identified, is accused of a mistake that led to the collision and is due to appear before a magistrate on Saturday on involuntary manslaughter.
Many of those killed in the crash, young people, struck a chord in Greece and sparked demonstrations in the capital, Athens, and in Thessaloniki, where many students live and where the passenger train was headed.
Schoolchildren and parents protested outside the Larissa train station on Friday morning, holding banners reading “No cover-ups” and “It wasn’t human error” – an apparent response to comments by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis about the cause of the collision.
Later in the day, thousands of students marched in Athens, some holding white balloons with the inscription “57 Death Cards” and “Winnings Painted in Students’ Blood.” More rallies were planned.
Greek trains run along a rudimentary system with safety features that union and security officials say work sporadically, and the network is less mature than many other European countries.
The crash left rolling stock strewn across the tracks, and authorities were due to begin removing the debris from the site once the search for human remains was complete.
“We will conduct a final search today, removing the wagons to search underneath and then starting to clear the area,” said Ioannis Artopios, a spokesman for the Hellenic Fire Brigade.
He added that most of the human remains had been removed from the crash site, although rescuers were still pulling out the charred remains of items such as backpacks, cellphones and laptops.
Although the official death toll was 57 as of Friday afternoon, there was an element of confusion: Only 56 people were reported missing by loved ones. “There is a possibility that a missing passenger was not reported by relatives or that others boarded at stations along the route,” Mr Artopios said.
Greek police notified relatives of the dead after family members submitted their DNA for identification. A total of 36 matches were confirmed as authorities went through the painstaking process and continued testing on remains recovered from the site.
Constantina Dimoglidou, a spokeswoman for the Greek police, said it was not yet clear if these remains belonged to people who had already been identified. She added that mental health professionals were assisting police in informing relatives.
Among those missing was Denis Ruci, a 22-year-old whose mother spoke to reporters outside Larissa General Hospital while holding a photo of her son.
“He bought a ticket online for carriage 5, seat 22,” she said, adding that he lived in Thessaloniki and visited friends in Athens. “We have no idea where he is. But if anyone saw or recognized him at number 22 please let me know because I can’t find my child.”
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, much of the focus was on Greece’s poor safety record, but Greek Supreme Court chief prosecutor Isidoros Doyiakos said Thursday a judicial inquiry into the causes of the collision should be wide-ranging and look beyond Tuesday night’s accident.
“Judicial judgment should not be limited to the criminal liability of specific individuals,” he said in a statement. “Right justice is the best way to commemorate the souls of the dead.”
Giorgos Andreou, whose son owns one of the hotels in Larissa that allowed victims’ families to speak for free, said the aftermath was reminiscent of war.
“In times of war, parents bury their children,” he said.
Mr Andreou partially blamed the inadequacies of the country’s railways on cuts imposed during Greece’s financial crisis, which began in 2009 and lasted nearly a decade. He also pointed the finger at the state’s chronic failure to address ongoing problems with the system. He said the episode reminded him of another train crash in 1972, when he was a teenager, near the village of Doxaras that left 19 people dead.
“Exactly the same thing happened,” he said, “nothing has changed.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/03/world/europe/greece-train-crash.html The search for a train wreck site in Greece is coming to an end