- At least 57 killed in Greece’s worst train crash
- The government promises to repair the dilapidated railway line
- Railway employees walked off the job in protest over safety standards
KATERINI, Greece, March 3 (Reuters) – Black-clad families and friends clung to each other in tears as the coffin of a 34-year-old mother killed in Greece’s deadliest train crash was carried. Church on Friday.
The first known funeral after Tuesday night’s crash that killed at least 57 people took place in the northern city of Katerini, where police said 52 bodies had been identified so far – almost all from DNA tests because the crash was so violent.
A passenger and freight train collided at high speed on a single track in central Greece, throwing carriages off the tracks and some of them crumpling and bursting into flames.
The passenger train was carrying more than 350 people, many of them university students returning from the capital Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki after a long holiday weekend.
On Friday, 38 passengers were still hospitalized, seven of them in intensive care.
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There has been anger across the country over the crash, which the government says was human error, but unions say was unavoidable due to lack of maintenance and faulty signaling.
“They killed him, that’s what happened. They’re all killers, all of them,” Panos Rutzi said earlier Friday, as he and his wife waited agonizingly for confirmation of what happened to their 22-year-old son Denis.
Shortly before the accident, his son had told him that he would be late and would call. “I’m still waiting,” Rutzi said, standing in front of a hospital in Larissa, not far from the crash site, where several victims were brought.
Denis had gone to Athens to visit friends and was returning home on a missed train. His mother Mirela showed reporters a photo of her son beaming on her cellphone.
After evening protests over the past two days, some 2,000 students took to the streets in Athens on Friday, blocking the road in front of the parliament for a moment of silence. Students also protested in Larissa, a central city near the crash site.
“Their profit, our dead,” read a banner signed by a university student body.
Another sign read, “It’s not an accident, it’s murder.”
Railway employees extended their strike for a second day on Friday and several rallies were planned, with many demanding how such a tragedy could have happened.
In school yards in Athens, students used their backpacks to write the words “Call me when you get there,” which has become one of the protest slogans.
Larisa’s 59-year-old station master was arrested and admitted some responsibility, his lawyer said, while he was not the only one to blame.
“The union has been sounding the alarm for years but it was never taken seriously,” said the main railway workers’ union, demanding a meeting with the new transport minister appointed after the accident, with a mandate to ensure such a tragedy. Will never happen again.
The union said it wanted a clear timetable for implementing safety protocols.
Work continued at the scene of the accident, where rescue workers used cranes to lift some of the carriages thrown from the tracks.
Opposition politicians also started criticizing.
“Any attempt to cover up and hide the truth about the Tempi tragedy is disrespecting the dead and foreshadowing new tragedies,” said Popi Tsapanidou, a spokesman for Greece’s main opposition leftist Syriza.
Before the crash, the government said elections would be held in the spring, with the media citing April 9 as the most likely date. Political analysts say the project may now be pushed back.
Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas in Larissa, Alexandros Avramidis in Katerini, and Carolina Takaris, Renee Moldeso, Michael Kampas, Alkis Konstantinidis; By Ingrid Melander; Editing: Christina Fincher
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