Train Crash in Greece: Families Await DNA Results as Death Toll Rises
Families of the victims of Greece’s worst-ever train crash anxiously awaited the results of DNA testing to identify their loved ones. The crash, which occurred on Tuesday night,
killed at least 57 people, with fears that the death toll could rise as emergency crews continue to search through the wreckage.
Workers at the national rail system went on strike on Thursday, citing concerns about the outdated, underfunded, and dangerous state of the system. The Greek government has attributed the accident to human error and has charged a railway official with manslaughter.
As rescuers carefully combed through the mangled passenger carriages, more than 48 people were being treated in hospitals across Greece, with six of them in intensive care. The majority of the injured were located in the central city of Larissa.
RESIDENTS LINE UP IN RAIN TO GIVE BLOOD
Despite the bad weather, many residents of Larissa stood in the heavy rain for more than an hour to donate blood for the injured. The city’s hotel association also offered free accommodations to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the tragic accident.
DNA Matching Underway for Victims of Greek Train Crash as Families Await News
Police spokeswoman Constandia Dimoglidou confirmed on Thursday that at least four families had received confirmation that their relatives were among the dead in the Greek train crash that occurred earlier this week. Despite the process usually taking several days, authorities are making an effort to complete the identification process by Friday, with 24 bodies having been identified through DNA so far.
The testing was necessary as many of the bodies were badly burned or mangled beyond recognition, making identification challenging. Among those awaiting news of their loved ones was Dimitris Bournazis, who expressed frustration over his unsuccessful attempts to communicate with Italian-owned train operator Hellenic Train to find out what seat his father was in.
WORKERS, RELATIVES SAY TRAIN SYSTEM UNSAFE
Meanwhile, railway workers’ associations called for strikes, halting national rail services and the subway in Athens to protest against working conditions and the lack of modernization of the rail system, which they described as dangerous. Two separate protests in central Athens were held by left-wing groups, with one resulting in clashes between stone-throwing youths and riot police. Protests were also held in Thessaloniki and Larissa.
The situation remains tense as families and loved ones continue to wait for updates on the identification process while calls for safety improvements to the rail system grow louder.
Critics Say Lack of Public Investment Contributed to Greek Train Crash
The deadly train crash that occurred in Greece this week has raised questions about the country’s limited rail network and outdated infrastructure. Critics have blamed a lack of public investment, which they say was exacerbated by the deep financial crisis that spanned most of the previous decade and nearly led to Greece’s bankruptcy.
In 2017, the rail operator, which was heavily losing money, was privatized and bought by Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group. However, despite years of modernization projects, much of the key rail control work is still manually operated, and the country’s rail network does not reach much of the country.
According to Costas Genidounias, the head of the engine drivers’ union, an up-to-date traffic control system was supposed to have been ready three years ago. Despite sending legal notices to the company responsible for Greece’s railway infrastructure, OSE, as well as government and regulatory officials, union representatives received no reply.
OSE has expressed condolences to the victims’ families but has not publicly commented on the criticism. Meanwhile, union representatives have argued that Hellenic Train, OSE, and the current and previous governments share responsibility for the accident, as they ignored concerns raised by employees over health and safety issues and the possibility of a serious accident.
Markos Bekris, a union representative who took part in a peaceful protest in Athens on Thursday, described the collision as “a crime waiting to happen.” As calls for improvements to Greece’s rail system grow louder, the government and relevant authorities will face mounting pressure to take action to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
A FOREST OF RESPONSIBILITY
Transportation Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned following the crash and officials launched a judicial inquiry to determine how two trains traveled in opposite directions on the same track for more than 10 minutes without anyone raising the alarm.
The Larissa station manager was charged Thursday with multiple counts of manslaughter and causing serious physical harm through negligence. His name was not released.
The stationmaster’s lawyer, Stefanos Pandzardzidis, said his client was “devastated” and accepted “his portion of the responsibility.”
“But beyond that … we must not focus on the tree while there’s a whole forest beyond it,” he said. “There’s a forest of responsibility.”
Bournazis agreed that the responsibility for the crash should go far beyond the stationmaster.
“We can’t dump all the blame on one person for making one mistake,” he said.
He said the crash should lead to a full safety overhaul of the country’s rail system.
“I’ve lost my brother, my father. That can’t change, I know it,” he said. “But the point is for us not to mourn victims like that again. They bought 50 tickets to death.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged in a televised statement Wednesday night to get to the bottom of the disaster.
“Responsibility will be assigned. We will work so that the words ‘never again’ … will not remain an empty pledge,” he said. “That I promise you.”
CENTIMETER BY CENTIMETER
Amid the growing criticism, emergency workers continued their grim recovery effort, proceeding “centimeter by centimeter” through mounds of twisted steel, shattered glass and scattered luggage, said Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios.
“We can see that there are more (bodies) of people there. Unfortunately they are in a very bad condition,” he told state television.
Rescuers were focusing on the restaurant car, which was crushed under the first carriage from the force of the collision, said fire official Vassilios Vathrakogiannis.
“This morning we removed seven burned bodies from that carriage,” he said.
He added that the entire operation was expected to be concluded by midday Friday.
CRASH SURVIVOR DESCRIBES FIERY ESCAPE
About 350 people were on the passenger train, many of them students returning from a holiday weekend and annual Carnival celebrations around Greece.
Andreas Alikaniotis, a 20-year-old survivor, described how he and fellow students escaped from a jackknifed train car as the fire approached, smashing windows and throwing luggage outside to use as a makeshift landing pad.
“It was a steep drop, into a ditch,” Alikaniotis, who suffered a knee injury, told reporters from his hospital bed in Larissa.
“The lights went out. … The smoke was suffocating inside the rail car but also outside,” Alikaniotis said.
He said he was “one of the few around who had not been seriously injured.”
“Me and my friends helped people get out.”