The country’s deadliest rail accident in recent memory claimed at least 38 lives when a Greek passenger train slammed head-on with a freight train late on Tuesday. The collision caused cars to derrail and catch fire.
Several of the casualties were believed to be college students going home after a long weekend of festivities. The number of fatalities was anticipated to increase, according to officials, as one carriage’s temperature reached 1,300 Celsius (2,370 F) when it caught fire.
Officials are investigating how a high-speed passenger train traveling at speeds of up to 160 km/h (100 mph) collided with a train hauling shipping containers traveling in the other way on the same track.
“Everything in this catastrophe points, sadly, mostly to human mistake,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised address on Wednesday.
At the central town of Larissa, about 200 miles north of Athens, a “nightmarish” crash that engulfed their train in flames just before midnight was described by passengers. It had departed from Athens and was making its way to Thessaloniki in the north.
To escape the blaze, some people punched through windows. On contact, some were thrown up to 40 meters (130 feet) in the air.
“Panic struck… The fire started right away. We were burning as we turned over, and fire was everywhere “said 28-year-old Stergios Minenis, who jumped to safety.
“People were screaming while windows were being broken… The impact of the iron from the other train caused one of the windows to cave in “According to a different passenger who managed to escape the fifth carriage, Skai TV.
As detectives worked to determine why the two trains had been on the same track “for many kilometers,” a station master was detained. Meanwhile, the nation’s transport minister quit.