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32 die, dozens injured in Greece train accident

Emergency services raced Wednesday to find survivors among the charred wreckage after two trains collided nearby the Greek city of Larissa, leaving at least 32 people dead and another 85 injured, according to authorities.

Just before midnight on Tuesday, a passenger train and a goods train collided, causing several carriages to be nearly completely destroyed and at least one car to appear to catch fire and entrap passengers.
One rescuer came out of the rubble and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life.” “It’s sad. After five hours, we start discovering bodies.

Several vehicles erupted in smoke and flames, some of which had turned over after being knocked off the tracks during the collision, leaving a tangled mess of metal and shattered glass in their wake.

The 350-passenger passenger train was making its way from Athens, the country’s capital, to Thessaloniki, a city in northern Greece.

Greek media said it had been carrying many students returning to Thessaloniki after a long holiday weekend.

“It was a nightmare… I’m still shaking,” 22-year-old passenger Angelos told AFP.

“Fortunately we were in the penultimate car and we got out alive. There was a fire in the first cars and complete panic.”

“The collision was like a huge earthquake.”

Some 150 firefighters and 40 ambulances were mobilised for the response, according to Greek emergency services.

“The operation to free trapped people is under way and is taking place in difficult conditions, due to the seriousness of the collision between the two trains,” spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told reporters.

He said that 32 people have been found dead, while 53 of the injured were in hospital.

But the toll was expected to rise as cranes and rescuers worked through the debris.

“I was stained with blood from other people who were injured near me,” a passenger named Lazos told the newspaper Protothema.

It is not yet known why the two trains collided in what local media is calling the worst “train accident that Greece has ever known”.

“The death toll is likely to be very high”, regional governor Kostas Agorastos told the Skai TV channel.

He said the first two carriages on the passenger train “no longer exist at all”.

On the local media site Onlarissa, a young woman said through tears that the train “was stopped for a few minutes when we heard a deafening noise”.

Another passenger told Skai television that “the windows suddenly exploded. People were screaming and were afraid”.

“Fortunately, we were able to open the doors and escape fairly quickly. In other wagons, they did not manage to get out, and one wagon even caught fire,” he added.

The president of the OSE train drivers’ union Kostas Genidounias told AFP from the scene of the accident that the two trains had ended up on the same track and collided head-on.

He said the accident was “unimaginable” and “would have been avoided if the safety systems were working”.

An emergency government meeting was organised after the crash. Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris went to the scene, while Interior Minister Takis Theodorikakos supervised the response from a crisis management centre.

The two hospitals near Larissa have been requisitioned to accommodate the many injured, according to the fire services, while military hospitals in Thessaloniki and Athens are also “on alert” in case they are needed.