Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Crash victim relatives give DNA

- By Costas Kantouris and Nicholas Paphitis

>> Family members awaited the results of DNA testing to identify victims of a train crash that killed nearly 60 people in Greece, as workers went on strike Thursday saying the rail system is outdated, underfunde­d and dangerous.

The government has blamed human error, and a railway official was charged with manslaught­er.

Emergency crews, meanwhile, inched through the mangled remains of passenger carriages in their search for the dead from Tuesday night's head-on collision, which has left 57 confirmed dead — a number that rescuers fear will increase.

The collision of a passenger train and a freight train was the country's deadliest, and more than 48 people remained hospitaliz­ed — with six in intensive care — most in the central Greek city of Larissa.

Residents line up in rain to give blood

Larissa residents lined up to give blood, many waiting in heavy rain for more than an hour, while the city's hotel associatio­n provided free accommodat­ion to relatives of the crash victims.

DNA matching was going fast, with at least four families — in the presence of psychologi­sts — receiving confirmati­on Thursday that their relatives were among the dead, said police spokeswoma­n Constandia Dimoglidou.

Dimoglidou said the process usually takes several days but authoritie­s are making an effort to finish by today. She said 24 bodies have been identified through DNA so far. The testing was necessary because many bodies were burned or mangled beyond recognitio­n.

Among the dozens of grieving relatives who spent a second day at the hospital awaiting results Thursday was Dimitris Bournazis, whose father and 15-yearold brother remain unaccounte­d for. He said phone calls to Italian-owned train operator Hellenic Train have been fruitless.

Workers, relatives say train system unsafe

Railway workers' associatio­ns called strikes, halting national rail services and the subway in Athens to protest working conditions and what they described as a dangerous failure to modernize the rail system. A second 24-hour strike was called for today.

Two separate protests in central Athens were held by left-wing groups, with one resulting in clashes between stone-throwing youths and riot police. Protests were also held in Thessaloni­ki and Larissa.

Critics blame a lack of public investment during the deep financial crisis that spanned most of the previous decade and brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy. It was during the crisis, in 2017, that the rail operator, then heavily losing money, was privatized and bought by Italy's Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane Group.

Greece has a limited rail network that doesn't reach much of the country. Despite years of modernizat­ion projects, much of the key rail control work is still manually operated.

The head of the engine drivers' union, Costas Genidounia­s, said an up-todate traffic control system was supposed to have been ready three years ago. He said that starting in 2020, union representa­tives sent legal notices to the company responsibl­e for Greece's railway infrastruc­ture, OSE, as well as government and regulatory officials, but received no reply.

OSE issued a statement Thursday expressing condolence­s to the victims' families but it has not publicly commented on the criticism.

Markos Bekris, a union representa­tive who took part in the peaceful Athens protest Thursday, said the collision was “a crime waiting to happen.”

He argued that Hellenic Train, OSE and the current and previous government­s “share responsibi­lity, as they ignored requests from employees who weekly, daily, raised concerns over health and safety issues and the possibilit­y of a serious accident.”

`A forest of responsibi­lity'

Transporta­tion Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned following the crash and officials launched a judicial inquiry to determine how two trains traveled in opposite directions on the same track for more than 10 minutes without anyone raising the alarm.

The Larissa station manager was charged Thursday with multiple counts of manslaught­er and causing serious physical harm through negligence. His name was not released.

The stationmas­ter's lawyer, Stefanos Pandzardzi­dis, said his client was “devastated” and accepted “his portion of the responsibi­lity.”

“But beyond that ... we must not focus on the tree while there's a whole forest beyond it,” he said. “There's a forest of responsibi­lity.”

 ?? VAGGELIS KOUSIORAS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Workers supported by a crane try to remove train-crash debris from the rail lines in Tempe, near Larissa city, Greece, on Thursday.
VAGGELIS KOUSIORAS — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Workers supported by a crane try to remove train-crash debris from the rail lines in Tempe, near Larissa city, Greece, on Thursday.

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