At least 32 dead, 85 injured

A freight train and a passenger train collided on March 1, 2023 in the area of ​​Evangelismos in Larissa, Greece.

Stringers | SOOC | AFP | Getty Images

A passenger train carrying hundreds of people collided at high speed with an oncoming freight train in a burning wreckage in northern Greece, killing 32 people and injuring at least 85, officials said on Wednesday.

Several cars derailed and at least three burst into flames after the collision near the town of Tempe just before midnight on Tuesday. Rescue workers floodlit the scene before sunrise on Wednesday as they frantically searched through the twisted, smoking debris for survivors.

Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars as a result of the impact. They said others struggled to get free after the passenger train buckled and slammed into a field next to the tracks near a ravine about 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens, where major highway and railway tunnels are located.

“There were a lot of big pieces of steel,” said Vassilis Polyzos, a local resident who was one of the first people at the scene. “The trains were completely destroyed, both passenger and freight trains.”

He said dazed and disoriented people fled the rear carriages of the train when it arrived.

“People were obviously scared – very scared,” he said. “They looked around, searched; they didn’t know where they were.”

The trains crashed just before the Valley of Tempe, a gorge separating the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the Thessaly region, told Greek TV channel Skai the two trains collided head-on at high speed.

“Cars one and two no longer exist, and the third derailed,” he said.

Rescuers with headlamps worked through thick smoke, pulling shredded metal from cars to search for trapped people. Others scanned the field with flashlights and searched under the rubble. Several of the dead are believed to have been found in the restaurant area near the front of the passenger train.

Hospital officials in the nearby town of Larissa said at least 25 of those injured had serious injuries.

“The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out in very difficult conditions due to the severity of the collision between the two trains,” said Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesman for the Hellenic Fire Brigade.

The possible cause of the collision was not immediately clear. Two railway officials were questioned by the police but had not been arrested.

Passengers who were slightly injured or remained unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers north. Police took their names when they arrived to locate any missing persons.

A teenage survivor, who did not give his name, told reporters that just before the crash, he felt heavy braking and saw sparks, then suddenly stopped.

“Our wagon didn’t derail, but the front ones did and were smashed,” he said, visibly shaken.

He added that the first car caught fire and that he used a bag to smash the window of his car, the fourth, and escape.

Train operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, had about 350 passengers on board.

Agorastos described the collision on state television as “very violent” and said it was “a terrible night”.

“The front part of the train was smashed. … We bring in cranes and use special lifting equipment to remove the rubble and lift the railroad cars. Debris was thrown all over the crash site.”

Officials said the army had been contacted to help.

Hellenic Train, which has added high-speed services in recent years, is operated by the Italian FS Group, which operates rail services in several European countries.


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