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Head-on train trash kills 38 in Greece, death toll to rise

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 At least 38 people have died as the result of a passenger train in Greece collided head-on with a freight train late on Tuesday. Carriages derailed before bursting into flames in what has been deemed the country’s deadliest rail crash in living memory.

Officials said the death toll was expected to rise further, as temperatures in one carriage had risen to 1,300 Celsius (2,370 F) after it caught fire. Many of the victims were thought to be university students returning home after a long holiday weekend.

Authorities have said they are working to establish how the high-speed passenger train collided with another carrying shipping containers, coming in the opposite direction and on the same track at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address on Wednesday: “Everything in this tragedy points, unfortunately, mainly to human error.”

Engulfed in flames

Passengers reportedly described a ‘nightmarish’ crash which engulfed their train in flames just before midnight near the central town of Larissa around 200 miles north of Athens. The train had departed from the Greek capital and was headed to the northern city of Thessaloniki. Some broke through windows to escape the fire whilst others were thrown up to 40 metres (130 ft) on impact.

Stergios Minenis, a 28-year-old who jumped to safety, said: “There was panic… The fire was immediate. As we were turning over we were being burned, fire was right and left.”

Another passenger, who escaped from the fifth carriage, told Skai TV: “Windows were being smashed and people were screaming… One of the windows caved in from the impact of iron from the other train.

Death toll ‘likely to rise’

A station master has been arrested as investigators try to work out why the two trains had been on the same track, whilst the country’s transport minister has resigned.

As rescuers continue to search the wreckage, fire brigade spokesman Vassilis Varthakogiannis said the temperatures in the first carriage made it hard to identify those trapped inside, or say how many died and based on this, the death toll was likely to rise.

Strike action

In later statements, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had accepted the resignations of senior officials in rail operator OSE and its subsidiary ERGOSE.

In Athens, around 1,000 people have been protesting outside the offices of Hellenic Train, another branch of the rail network, where some threw stones at windows.

Hellenic Train said it had suspended all scheduled trains on Thursday after railway workers said they would strike.

“Pain has turned into anger for the dozens of dead and wounded colleagues and fellow citizens,” the workers’ union said in a statement announcing the strike. “The disrespect shown over the years by governments to the Greek railways led to the tragic result.”

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