(CNN) Anger inside Greece The death toll in the country’s worst train accident in recent years rose to 57 on Thursday due to poor railway safety.
Following this, the demonstrators thronged the streets Face-to-face confrontation Between a passenger train and a freight train carrying more than 350 people on Tuesday evening at Tempi, near the city of Larissa.
Protesters clashed with police in the capital Athens, where the country’s transport minister resigned and a rail workers’ union went on strike in the wake of the tragedy.
Another 48 people are in hospital as a result of the crash, which overturned vehicles and left a trail of burning debris. Public broadcaster ERT reported on Thursday that six of the injured were being treated for head injuries and severe burns.
Greek authorities on Thursday released audio recordings of the strike, which showed one of the train drivers receiving instructions to ignore a red light, after the station manager in Larissa was arrested in connection with the confrontation.
“Proceed through the red traffic light exit until entering the neon boron traffic light,” the station master is heard saying.
“Was it better for me to go, Vasilis?” The train driver responds, to which the train master says “Go, go”.
In the second conversation, the station master can be heard ordering an employee to keep one of the trains on the same track.
“Shall I return it now?” asks the employee.
“No, no, because 1564 is this way,” says the station master.
The station master has been charged with negligence causing mass death and negligence causing grievous bodily harm. Upon his arrest he blamed the crash on a technical fault, although later admitted he was “at fault”.
Struggle in Athens
Protesters gathered outside the central Athens headquarters of Hellenic Train on Thursday evening in a demonstration organized by student and labor unions.
Police were already present outside the Hellenic Railway headquarters before the demonstrators arrived. The protest calmed down after Wednesday’s unrest, when demonstrators clashed with police.
A local hospital told ERT that most of the passengers involved in the accident were youths. The accident happened right after the holiday break.
Search and rescue operations will continue at the crash site on Thursday and Friday, the fire service said.
Meanwhile, relatives of the missing are still waiting for news regarding their loved ones as identification work continues at Larissa General Hospital.
Speaking to Greek media earlier, Dimitris Bornassis said he had been trying to get news about his father and brother, but no one had given him any information. Bournazis said he is trying to contact the company to find out where his relatives were sitting on the train when the accident happened. He said he called Hellenic Rail’s offices three times, but no one called him back.
“Prime Minister and Health Minister came here yesterday. Why? What to do? What to do? What to explain? Where are they today?” Bournazis told Greek broadcaster SKAI, “Nobody gave us any information, nobody really knows how many people were inside.”
Can’t blame only one person for the mistake. Now where are everyone.. They are all waiting for election to speak.
Speaking to ERT, Andreas Alikaniodis, a passenger in the second cab at the time of the collision, described the moments that followed the crash.
“What we did was break the glass, which was already cracked, and throw the luggage out of the carriage so we could land somewhere soft,” he told ERT, describing how he helped 10 people escape.
“We jumped 3 to 4 meters,” he added, “we were injured very badly at first, then we got minor injuries.”
Alikaniotis said he remembers pulling two or three women, going to the window and helping them jump. “There was panic,” he added.
‘Pain turned to anger’
Compared to other countries in Europe, Greece has the weakest record on rail passenger safety, recording the highest railway fatality rate per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 among 28 countries on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Agency for Railways.
In an extraordinary meeting, the Greek Federation of Railway Workers unanimously decided to launch a 24-hour strike on Thursday. This highlights poor working conditions and chronic staff shortages.
The central government accused the railways of “disrespect” for causing the accident, saying that “more permanent staff, better training and implementation of more importantly modern safety systems are permanently trashed.”
Separately, another 24-hour strike was announced by Greek metro workers, who said in a statement: “There are no words to describe such sadness.”
Greek Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis stepped down on Wednesday, saying the railway system the government inherited was “not up to 21st century standards”.
In a televised address after visiting the crash site, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the crash was “mainly” caused by “tragic human error”.
He said that the resignation of the Minister of Transport was honorable and that the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization and its subsidiary ERGOSE had also submitted their resignations.
Condolences have poured in from around the world as Greece observes three days of mourning.
Britain’s King Charles said in a statement that he and his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, were “shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the terrible accident”.
French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “My thoughts go out to the families of the victims of last night’s terrible accident near Larissa. France stands with the Greeks.”
CNN’s Heather Chen, Mohammad Tawfiq, Jennifer Houser and Max Foster contributed reporting.