The Daily Telegraph
Violence erupts in Greece as shock over rail disaster turns to angry protests
PM seeks forgiveness from families of the 57 killed after train crash causes outrage across the country
GREECE’S prime minister asked for forgiveness from the families of the 57 who died in the nation’s worst rail disaster as thousands of protesters rallied in Athens and clashed with police.
“As prime minister, I owe it to everyone, but especially to the victims’ relatives, [to ask for] forgiveness,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote in a message addressed to the nation.
“For the Greece of 2023, two trains heading in different directions cannot run on the same line and no one notice,” Mr Mitsotakis said in the message posted on his Facebook page.
The collision between passenger and freight trains near the city of Larissa on Tuesday has caused outrage across Greece.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the parliament in Athens yesterday following a call by students, rail workers and public sector employees, with violent clashes erupting between police and the protesters.
Hundreds of black balloons were released into the sky by demonstrators in memory of the dead, with some holding signs reading “Down with killer governments”, while rail services were paralysed by strike action.
Michalis Hasiotis, head of the chartered accountants’ union, told AFP they felt “an immense anger”, blaming “the thirst for profit, the lack of measures taken for the passengers’ protection”.
Relatives and loved ones of those killed were also expected to gather yesterday for a memorial outside Larissa station, central Greece, near the site of the accident.
The stationmaster implicated in Greece’s deadliest rail crash, which killed at least 57 people, was charged and taken into custody yesterday, a legal source told AFP.
The 59-year-old was charged over his role in the “death of a large number of people”, a crime that carries a sentence of between 10 years and life.
Hellenic Train, the rail company that has become the focus of some of the anger, released a statement late on Saturday defending its actions.
Hundreds of people demonstrated during the week outside their Athens headquarters, and one legal source said investigators are looking at the possibility of bringing charges against senior members of the company.
Over the last few days, rail union officials have insisted they warned the company about the safety issues on the line. Hard questions are also being asked of the government over its failure to pursue rail safety reforms.
The demonstrations and vigils across Greece have expressed a combination of grief and anger at the disaster, which happened when a passenger train and a freight train collided.
Syntagma Square, next to the Greek parliament in Athens, was the scene of
‘What happened was not an accident, it was a crime. We can’t watch this happen and remain indifferent’
clashes between police and protesters on Friday night.
Candle-lit marches and ceremonies have also been held in memory of the victims, many of them students who were returning from a weekend break.
“What happened was not an accident, it was a crime,” said one protester, Sophia Hatzopoulou, 23, a philosophy student in Thessaloniki.
At least nine young people studying at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University were among those killed in the passenger train.