Greece will do everything possible so that a tragedy like the one it is currently faced with will never happen again, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday following a head-on collision of two trains in central Greece that left behind 36 dead and dozens injured.
“I can guarantee one thing: We will find out the causes of the tragedy and we will do everything possible to ensure that nothing of the sort ever happens again,” the Greek leader said on the site of the crash, according to a press statement.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou expressed her deep grief at the “inconceivable tragedy,” sending a message of support to the families of the victims and the injured, according to a press release.
A total of 66 people remained in hospitals, including six in serious condition in intensive care units, according to the latest update from the Greek Fire Service.
More than 150 firefighters, including special units, were participating in an ongoing search and rescue operation searching for survivors in the wreckage, the spokesperson of the Fire Service, Vasilios Vathrakogiannis, told a press briefing.
Efforts were focused on the first three carriages of the passenger train that crashed onto a freight train close to midnight at Tempi municipality near the city of Larissa, he added. They were engulfed in flames after the collision.
A total of 346 passengers were on board the passenger train, national broadcaster ERT reported, citing the Hellenic Train rail operator.
An investigation into the causes of the accident has been launched, Greek police said.
Announcing a three-day period of national mourning, Greek government spokesperson Giannis Oikonomou said that authorities will clarify how the two trains were running on the same track for many kilometers in different directions.
The passenger train was heading from Athens to Thessaloniki city port in northern Greece, while the cargo train had departed from Thessaloniki for Athens.
“Whatever we say now will be premature and in essence, I would tell you that in this way we do not respect the people who have perished. I would like us all to stay calm and stick to what we said that we will do everything to investigate the causes and will not sweep anything under the carpet,” Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis told media on the site of the disaster.
The president of the train drivers’ association, Kostas Genidounias told Greek national broadcaster ERT that there were shortcomings in the operation of the railways that should be addressed. Electronic traffic control systems warning drivers of dangers ahead had not been working and the Athens-Thessaloniki network runs in manual mode, he said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was one of the first foreign leaders expressing condolences for the tragedy, while messages of support from abroad continue to pour in, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.