Greece has been left reeling after a deadly train crash claimed the lives of at least 57 people on Tuesday night. The accident occurred when a passenger train and a freight train collided on the same track at high speed in central Greece, causing carriages to be thrown off the tracks and engulfed in flames. Almost all of the 52 bodies identified so far have had to be identified using DNA tests, due to the severity of the crash.
The first funeral for one of the victims, a 34-year-old mother, took place on Friday in the northern town of Katerini. Family and friends, dressed in black and in tears, watched as her coffin was carried up the stairs of a church. But anger has grown across the country over the tragedy, with unions blaming a lack of maintenance and faulty signalling for the collision, and students taking to the streets in protest.
Over the past two evenings, evening protests have erupted, with more than 2,000 students blocking the road in front of parliament in Athens on Friday for a moment of silence. However, clashes also broke out between police and some protesters, who threw petrol bombs and set garbage bins on fire. Tear gas was used by police in response.
Students also demonstrated in Larissa, the central city near where the crash took place, with black balloons and placards calling the incident “murder” rather than an accident. One student said it was a “disgrace” that such a collision could happen in 2023 with so much technology available.
Meanwhile, outside the hospital in Larissa, parents of victims anxiously waited for news of their loved ones. One father blamed the government for the tragedy, calling them “murderers.” The hospital confirmed that 38 passengers were still being treated, seven of them in intensive care.
Railway workers went on strike on Thursday, and the walkout has been extended for an additional 48 hours as they demand action to ensure such a tragedy cannot happen again. The main rail workers’ union has demanded a meeting with the new transport minister, who was appointed after the crash to oversee the implementation of new safety protocols.
Opposition politicians have also begun to criticize the government’s response, with one spokesperson for the main opposition party accusing them of trying to hide and cover up the truth of what happened.
The country had been gearing up for an election in the spring, but political analysts now predict that it may be pushed back as a result of this train crash tragedy. The focus now is on ensuring that lessons are learned, and that appropriate measures are put in place to prevent such a devastating loss of life from happening again.