Greek train crash protesters throw petrol bombs as government admits failures

About 2,000 protesters gathered in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Thursday as authorities admitted failures over a deadly train crash that killed at least 57 people, among them many university students.

Stones and Molotov cocktails were thrown at the protests, but “calm has now returned,” a police spokesman in Greece’s second city said.

Protesters on Friday held a minute of silence in front of the Greek parliament in Athens in memory of the victims of the disaster.

The protest came as Greek railway workers extended their strike to a second day, and more protest rallies were planned, amid anger over the devastating accident.

Carriages were thrown off the tracks, crushed and engulfed in flames when a high-speed passenger train with more than 350 people on board collided head-on with a freight train late on Tuesday.

“The federation has been sounding alarm bells for so many years, but it has never been taken seriously,” the main rail workers union said, demanding a meeting with the new transport minister, appointed after the crash with a mandate to ensure such a tragedy can never happen again.

The union said it wanted a clear timetable for the implementation of safety protocols. Questions about the crash – which happened because the two trains were on the same track – involve faulty signalling and maintenance issues.

Work resumed at the crash site, where rescue staff used cranes to lift some of the carriages that were thrown off the tracks, and could be wrapped up on Friday.

“The operation is under way, it was planned to end today, we hope it will end today, but there’s always the unknown factor,” a fire brigade official said.

It was unclear if more people are still missing, or how many.

Amid shock and sorrow in a country where three days of national mourning have been declared, families and friends said they wanted answers over how such a crash could have happened.

On Thursday, outside the hospital in Larissa where many of the victims were taken, a woman called Katerina, whose brother was missing, screamed: “Murderers! Murderers! I will leave tomorrow with a coffin!”

Katerina, whose anger was directed at the government and the rail company, had, like other relatives looking for loved ones, given a DNA sample to try to identify her brother.

A woman whose husband and five-year-old son were on the train told Greek TV: “All those people who are there, they’re useless, useless. Some MPs are coming out and offering condolences, so what? Will it bring our children back?”

Asked if she had provided DNA for identification, she said, on footage broadcast by Mega TV: “To identify what, ashes?”

After evening protests over the past two days, two more protest rallies are planned in Athens on Friday, one at noon and the second in the evening.

Updated: March 03, 2023, 1:10 PM

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