One of Greece’s worst rail disasters, which claimed at least 43 lives, was due to “tragic human error,” the country’s prime minister has said.
PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke after visiting the site of Tuesday night’s head-on collision between a passenger service and a freight train.
The local stationmaster has been charged with manslaughter. The Greek transport minister has resigned.
Rescue teams are continuing to search for survivors.
The accident happened just before midnight on Tuesday. The passenger train carrying some 350 people collided with a freight train as it emerged from a tunnel after leaving the town of Larissa.
It is unclear why the two services were running on the same track.
The stationmaster, who is in charge of signalling, denies wrongdoing and has blamed the accident on a possible technical failure.
After visiting the site, Mitsotakis said everything pointed to “a tragic human error.”
“Justice will do its job,” he said in a televised address. “People will be held accountable, while the state will be on the side of the people.”
Announcing his resignation, Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis stated: “When something so tragic happens, it is impossible to continue and pretend it didn’t happen.”
Trade unions said collisions have multiple factors, and the crash had highlighted chronic deficiencies, including lack of staff, broken signals, and outdated facilities.
The first four carriages of the passenger train were derailed and the first two caught fire and were “almost completely destroyed.” Thessaly regional governor Kostas Agorastos said.
The train was travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki, which has a sizeable student population, and it is believed many on board were students returning there after a holiday for Greek Orthodox lent.