Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis has announced his resignation, saying he considers it his “duty” to resign “simply as a sign of respect for the memory of the people who died unjustly” in a train collision.
It came as rescuers searched burned-out cars for survivors and bodies after a passenger and freight train collided overnight in central Greece, killing at least 36 people and injuring dozens.
It was not immediately clear what caused the accident, which occurred near the city of Tempe, about 380 km north of Athens, but on Wednesday the director of a railway station in the nearby town of Larissa was arrested. The police did not release his name, and two other people were arrested for questioning.
It is not clear why the trains were moving at speeds when the collision occurred just before midnight on Tuesday, but local broadcaster ERT reported that the speed was over 140 kilometers per hour.
According to survivors, the collision sent several passengers flying out of the windows of the train car. The TV channel, citing the rescuers, said that they found the bodies of the dead about 30-40 meters from the accident site.
Several wagons derailed, at least three of them caught fire. And on Wednesday, the cart ended up on the wreckage of two other carts.
And the fire department announced that “the temperature has reached 1300 degrees Celsius, making it difficult to identify people inside the car.”
Officials said many of the approximately 350 people on the commuter train were students returning from a bustling carnival in Greece.
This year, for the first time since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the three-day carnival preceding Lent was fully celebrated.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during his visit to the crash site that the government should help the victims recover and identify the victims.
“I can guarantee one thing: we will find out the causes of this tragedy and will do everything possible so that this will never happen again,” he added.
Greek President Caterina Sakellarpolo made an official visit to Moldova and returned to her country, visited the accident site and laid flowers at the train wreckage.
The government has declared three days of national mourning since Wednesday, and flags have been flown at half mast in front of all European Commission buildings in Brussels.