Greece is in mourning following the train disaster at Tempi near Larissa on Tuesday that killed at least 57 people and injured dozens more. Several more people are missing.
A passenger train and a cargo train were involved in the fatal head-on crash resulting in the deadliest rail tragedy in Greece.
The country’s prime minister declared a three-day national mourning with flags flying at half-mast in all public buildings and suspension of public events.
Political parties have also suspended their campaigns for the general election expected to be held in April.
The official confirmed death toll has risen to 57, the Fire Brigade said on Thursday evening. Of the hospitalized 72 train passengers, 15 were released and 57 will remain in hospital – of whom 6 are being treated in Intensive Care Units, it was added.
Many of the 350 passengers on board were students in their 20s returning to Thessaloniki after a long weekend celebrating Greek Orthodox Lent.
At the site of the crash, rescuers yet again worked through the night. Crews will continue searching the wreckage of the passenger train for missing persons, although hopes of finding survivors have faded.
Families have been arriving at a nearby hospital to give DNA samples so that their missing loved ones may be identified.
But this will become an increasingly difficult process as more remains are retrieved of those who were at the front of the passenger train and who bore the full force of the head-on collision and the fire that then ripped through their carriages.
Fire brigade spokesperson Vassilis Varthakogiannis said temperatures inside the first carriage had reached 1,300C (2,370F), which made it “hard to identify the people who were inside”.
Greece train disaster due to “human error”
A Hellenic Train station master in Larissa, aged 59, who was officially placed under arrest on Wednesday and charged with manslaughter through negligence for the tragic train accident near Tempi, will appear before a prosecutor on Thursday.
Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned over the disaster, saying he would take responsibility for the authorities’ “long-standing failures” to fix a railway system he said was not fit for the 21st Century.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke about the disaster in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday evening. He said that “everything shows that the accident is mainly due to tragic human error.”
He added that Karamanlis “assumed the objective political responsibility, and immediately submitted his resignation, and so did the heads of the Hellenic Rainways Organization (OSE) and of OSE’s projects branch ErgOSE.”
Experts agree that the train collision was probably caused by human error, but stress that the electronic systems onboard trains are “not working for years.”