Greece train crash: Anger boils as audio released of driver being told to ignore red light
Anger rose in Greece on Thursday over poor railway safety, As authorities released audio in which a train driver involved in the nation’s worst train crash in recent years was told to ignore a red light.
Protesters took to the streets in Tempi, near the city of Larissa, after a head-on collision between a passenger train and a freight train carrying more than 350 people on Tuesday evening. The death toll in this accident increased to 57 late on Thursday night.
Protesters clashed with police in the capital Athens, the country’s transport minister resigned in the wake of the tragedy and a rail workers union is on strike, accusing the government of “disrespect” in the sector.
Another 48 people remain in hospital as a result of the accident, which left overturned vehicles and charred debris. Public broadcaster ERT reported on Thursday that six of the injured were in critical condition, being treated for head injuries and severe burns.
After a train station manager in Larissa was arrested in connection with the collision, Greek authorities made public on Thursday Dramatic dispatch recordings show one of the train drivers receiving instructions to ignore a red light.
“Exit at the red traffic light until the traffic light entry to Neon Poron,” the station master was heard saying.
“Vasilis, am I good to go?” The train driver responds, to which the train master says, “Go, go.”
In another conversation the station master can be heard ordering an employee to keep a train on the same track.
“Shall I turn it now?” the employee asks.
“No, no, because 1564 is on this route,” says the station master.
The station master has been charged with negligence causing mass death and negligence causing grievous bodily harm. After his arrest he blamed the collision on technical fault, although later admitted to “making a mistake”.
Protesters gathered outside the central Athens headquarters of Greek rail company Hellenic Train on Thursday evening in a demonstration organized by student and worker unions.
There was a police presence outside the Hellenic Train headquarters before the protesters arrived. The demonstration remained peaceful after unrest on Wednesday, in which protesters clashed with police.
A local hospital told ERT that most of the passengers involved in the accident were young. The accident happened right after the holiday weekend.
Search and rescue operations will continue at the crash site Thursday and Friday, according to the fire service.
Meanwhile, relatives of the missing are still waiting for news about their loved ones as the identification process continues at the Larissa General Hospital.
Speaking earlier to Greek media seeking news about his father and brother, Dimitris Bornazis said no one had given him any information. Bornazis said he was trying to contact the company to find out where his relatives were sitting at the time of the accident. He said he called Hellenic Train offices three times but no one called him back.
“The Prime Minister and the Health Minister came here yesterday. Why? What to do? To explain what? Where are they today?” “No one gave us any information, no one knows how many people were actually inside,” Bornazis told Greek broadcaster SKAI.
“We cannot blame just one person for this because of the mistake. Where is everyone now? They are all waiting for the elections to speak,” he said.
Speaking to ERT, passenger Andreas Alikaniotis, who was in the other vehicle during the collision, described the moments after the accident.
“What we did was to break the glass, which was already cracked, and throw the stuff out of the vehicle, so that we could land somewhere softer,” he told ERT, adding that he helped about 10 people escape. How did it help?
“We jumped 3 to 4 meters,” he added, “first we got serious injuries and then we got minor injuries.”
Alikaniotis added that he remembers pulling two or three girls and helping them to the window to jump. “There was panic,” he added.
Greece has a poor railway passenger safety record compared to other countries in Europe, recording the highest railway fatality rate per million rail kilometers from 2018 to 2020 among the continent’s 28 countries, according to the European Union Agency for Railways’ 2022 According to the report of
In an extraordinary meeting, the Greek Federation of Rail Workers unanimously decided to launch a 24-hour strike on Thursday to highlight working conditions and chronic understaffing.
It accused the federal government of “disrespect” towards the railways for causing the accident, saying, “More permanent staff, better training and mainly the implementation of modern safety systems, have been permanently trashed.” is.”
Separately, another 24-hour strike was announced by Greek metro workers, who said in a statement: “There are no words to describe this kind of tragedy.”
Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis said the railway system the government inherited was “not up to 21st century standards” as he resigned from his role on Wednesday.
In a televised address after visiting the crash site, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the collision was “primarily” caused by “tragic human error”.
He said the transport minister’s decision to resign was honorable, adding that the heads of the Hellenic Railway Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE had also submitted their resignations.
Condolences have been expressed from around the world, while three days of mourning have been observed in Greece.
Britain’s King Charles said in a statement that he and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, were “shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the terrible accident.”
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts are with the families of the victims of last night’s terrible accident near Larissa. France stands with the Greeks.”