(NEW YORK) — At least 38 people were killed and more than 80 others injured in a head-on collision between a freight train and a passenger train in Greece late Tuesday, officials said.
The crash occurred shortly before midnight in the town of Tempi along the Athens-Thessaloniki route at the entrance to the Vale of Tempe, a tree-lined gorge that separates the northern Greek regions of Thessaly and Macedonia. The two trains were running toward each other on the same track and the force of the high-speed collision derailed multiple cars, with some bursting into flames, according to Greece’s Hellenic Fire Service.
About 350 people were on board the northbound passenger train, which was traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki, according to the Greek rail operator Hellenic Train.
At least 150 firefighters, including some from specialized units, and 40 ambulances responded to the scene with the assistance of 32 police officers and 15 patrol vehicles, according to the Hellenic Fire Service.
The next morning, rescuers were still searching for survivors in the smoking wreckage, using cranes to lift the derailed carriages. Their efforts were initially focused on the first two cars, which had “overturned” and were “the most difficult to extricate,” a Hellenic Fire Service spokesperson said in a statement early Wednesday.
The impact of the collision left the passenger train’s restaurant car on top of two other cars. A blaze broke out in that carriage, with temperatures reaching as high as 1,300 degrees Celsius (2,372 degrees Fahrenheit), which “makes it difficult to identify the people inside,” the Hellenic Fire Service spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
A 59-year-old Greek citizen has been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the deadly crash, according to Greece’s Hellenic Police.
Meanwhile, authorities are still working to identify the dead, whose bodies were taken to the general hospital in the nearby city of Larissa, a Hellenic Police spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
As for the injured, 72 remain hospitalized, including six in critical condition, while the rest have been treated and released, according to the Hellenic Fire Service.
The Greek government has declared three days of national mourning in the wake of the tragedy.
Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis announced his resignation on Wednesday after visiting the crash site in Tempi, saying he felt it was his “duty” to do so “as a minimum sign of respect” to the victims.
“When something this tragic happens, it is impossible to go on as if it didn’t happen,” Karamanlis wrote in a post on Facebook. “This is called political responsibility.”
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