Train Wreck Causes Nationwide Tragedy in Greece: Protests have continued along with the ongoing investigation into the crash

By: Keilah Cook

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 a passenger train with more than 350 people aboard crashed into a freight train in northern Greece. At least 43 people were killed, 66 were treated for injuries and six are currently in intensive care units. The collision jolted many passengers into ceilings and out of the windows of the train. This incident has become known as the deadliest rail crash in Greece’s history. 

“A horrific rail accident without precedent in our country,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

The train’s journey was from Athens to Thessaloniki. Many of the passengers were students traveling after a four day weekend having celebrated clean Monday just days before. On a double track, the trains were traveling in opposite directions passing through the same line near the river valley of Vale the Tempe. The passenger train moved lanes, switching to a cargo lane before colliding head-on with the freight train. 

Following this accident, an extensive investigation has been launched. Prime Minister Mitsotakis mentioned that the collision was “mainly due to a tragic human error.” In light of long-lasting protests, Mitsotakis has since taken a greater level of responsibility for the tragedy. 

The stationmaster who is in charge of maintaining the traffic along the rails was arrested at the last train stop in Larissa. Authorities have not publicly released his identity. The stationmaster has since admitted to being guilty of negligence. 

A day after the tragic event, Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned, taking full responsibility for the accident. His decision to step down has been described as “a basic indication of respect for the memory of the people who died so unfairly.” In the wake of the events, Karamanlis also commented on the state of the Greek Railway System describing how it was “not up to 21st-century standards” upon his arrival in office. 

“In these 3.5 years, we have made every effort to improve this reality. Unfortunately, our efforts have not been sufficient to prevent such a bad incident. And this is very heavy for all of us and me personally, “ Karamanlis said. 

In comparison to other European countries, Greece is severely lacking in railway passenger safety. According to a 2022 report by the European Union Agency for Railways, Greece topped the list with the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 out of 28 nations. 

“I can guarantee one thing: We will find out the causes of this tragedy, and we will do all that’s in our power so that something like this never happens again,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said. 

Worldwide condolences and support are being offered following a government declaration of a three-day mourning period. In Brussels, the flags were positioned at half-staff outside of the European Union buildings as protests in the country continue. 

Sources: AP News, CNN, VOA News

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