Train crash in Greece kills 32

At least 32 people were killed when a passenger train and a freight train collided in northern Greece, with an impact so severe that cranes were used to clear debris in a search for survivors, a Greek Fire Brigade official said on Wednesday.

The cause of the crash, which occurred just before midnight on Tuesday near the small town of Tempe, was initially unclear. According to Hellenic Train, which operated the route, there were about 350 passengers on the train as it traveled north from Athens to Thessaloniki.

The crash was the worst rail disaster in Greece since 1968, when 34 people died after two passenger trains collided near Corinth, just over 40 miles west of Athens.

The Greek fire brigade said in a statement that 85 people were taken to hospital with injuries and 53 were admitted. With the salvage operation still underway, there were fears the death toll would rise.

“Windows shattered and people screamed,” an unidentified young man told a TV crew after surviving the crash. “There was panic in the carriage. A huge block of metal from the other train had entered through one of the windows.”

Several wagons derailed on impact and at least three caught fire. A Greek Police spokeswoman, Constantina Dimoglidou, said the process to identify the dead had begun at a hospital in the town of Larissa, some 20 miles south of Tempe, and asked relatives of passengers to call a hotline for information.

Most of the victims are young, Greece’s Health Minister Thanos Plevris told reporters outside the hospital. “It’s a terrible process for parents and relatives,” he said.

Vasileios Vathrakoyiannis, a spokesman for the fire service, told a television briefing that the rescue operation “is currently focused on the first two carriages of the passenger train that overturned”. He said there were four cranes in use.

Television footage showed red cranes appearing over the twisted, charred debris while police officers and rescue workers in fluorescent jackets surveyed the scene.

“It’s a terrible night,” Kostas Agorastos, the governor of the Thessaly region, said on TV. He said two of the cars “are basically gone. The force of the impact threw them into the air.”

The army supported the rescue operation and Greek Civil Defense Minister Christos Stylianides coordinated the state’s response.

“There were a lot of big pieces of steel,” Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident, told The Associated Press. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

Mr Polyzos said he could see people who appeared dazed and disoriented trying to flee the trains when he arrived at the scene. “People were obviously scared – very scared,” he said. “They looked around, searched; they didn’t know where they were.” Train crash in Greece kills 32

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