Greek railway workers go on strike over terms after deadly clash

Thessaloniki – A rescue team using cranes and heavy equipment on Thursday searched the wreckage of a train involved in a deadly collision that has brought Greece into national mourning and sparked strikes and protests against rail safety. Head-on collisions involving a train and a freight vehicle on Wednesday left the death toll at 43, with crews continuing to check the burnt and twisted railcars for more dead bodies. More than 50 people remained hospitalized, mostly in the central Greek city of Larissa, some in critical condition. Railway workers’ organizations called for a strike, shutting down the national railway and the Athens metro, protesting working conditions and the lack of modernization of the Greek railway system.

The clashes on Wednesday occurred near the small town of Tempe in northern Greece. A freight train laden with heavy construction equipment crashed into passenger services on Greece’s busiest line between Athens and Thessaloniki, the country’s second largest city. There were over 300 people on the train. Many of them were students returning from holiday weekends or the annual carnival celebrations held across Greece.

Just as Greece emerged from its crisis worst train accident in history, Pope Francis and European leaders sent messages of sympathy. Among them was Foreign Minister Mevrut Cavushoglu, whose country is recovering from last month’s devastating earthquake. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sent a message in Greek, saying, “The people of Ukraine share the pain of the families of the victims. I wish the injured a speedy recovery.”

The station manager, who was arrested following the rail accident, will appear in court on Thursday as a judicial inquiry seeks to establish why two trains traveling in opposite directions were on the same track.

Transport Minister Costas Karamanlis resigned after the crash and his successor was tasked with setting up an independent inquiry into the cause of the accident.

“Responsibility will be assigned,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mysotakis said in a televised address late Wednesday after visiting the site of the crash. “We will work to ensure that the word ‘never again’ does not become an empty pledge. That is what I promise you.”


Gatopoulos reported from Athens, Greece.

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