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Greece’s train crash: killing 32 and wounding at least 85

Officials reported Wednesday that a passenger train carrying several hundred people crashed at high speed with an oncoming goods train in northern Greece, killing 32 and wounding at least 85.

During an accident near Tempe just before midnight on Tuesday, many cars derailed, and at least three caught fire. Rescue workers used floodlights to illuminate the site before daybreak on Wednesday as they desperately searched the twisted, burning wreckage for survivors.

Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars due to the impact. Others tried to extricate themselves when the passenger train crumbled and slammed into a field close to the tracks near a gorge some 380 kilometres north of Athens, which has major highway and rail tunnels.

The trains collided right before the Vale of Tempe, a gorge that divides Thessaly and Macedonia. Thessaly’s regional governor, Costas Agorastos, informed Greece’s Skai television that the two trains collided head-on at high speed.

Rescuers using spotlights searched for trapped people by retrieving pieces of damaged metal from the cars. Others scoured the area with flashlights, looking beneath the wreckage. Numerous bodies are thought to have been discovered in the restaurant section towards the front of the passenger train.

At least 25 of those hurt were seriously injured, according to hospital officials in the nearby city of Larissa. “The evacuation operation is underway and is being carried out under very difficult conditions due to the severity of the accident between the two trains,” said Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a spokesperson for Greece’s firefighting service.

The reason for the collision was not immediately clear. Police were questioning two train officials, but they were not detained. Travelers with minor injuries or who were unhurt were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometres to the north. As they came, police collected their identities in an effort to locate anyone who could be missing.

The northbound passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, was carrying around 350 people, according to rail operator Hellenic Train.  On state television, Agorastos described the accident as “extremely powerful” and a “terrible night.”

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