Greece train crash: Thousands protest in Athens

Athens –

Temporary clashes broke out between police and a group of demonstrators in central Athens on Sunday, around protests by thousands of students and railway workers over Greece’s deadliest train accident in memory. .

A small number of demonstrators threw petrol bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. Protesters then disperse into nearby streets.

At least 57 people were killed and dozens injured when a passenger train carrying more than 350 people collided with a freight train on the same track in central Greece on Tuesday.

Some 10,000 students, railroad workers and groups belonging to left-wing political parties gathered in a square in Athens on Sunday to express their sympathy for the lives lost and to express their condolences for the loss of the railroad network after the past three days of protests across the country. We demanded improved safety standards.

“I will never forget that crime,” protesters shouted, releasing black balloons into the air. A placard read, “Their policies cost lives.”

Trains from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki were packed with college students returning from a long holiday weekend. The disaster has sparked outbursts of anger and increased attention to safety standards.

Rail workers, who also lost colleagues in the accident, staged a rotating strike starting Wednesday to denounce cost cutting and underinvestment in rail infrastructure, a legacy of the debt crisis that debilitated Greece from 2010 to 2018. gone.

The government, led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has blamed human error for the crash. But Mitsotakis said on Sunday that human error should not divert responsibility for the long-suffering rail network.

“As prime minister, I owe an apology to everyone, especially the families of the victims,” ​​he wrote on Facebook. “Justice will very quickly investigate the tragedy and determine responsibility.”

A station manager in the nearby city of Larissa, who was on duty at the time of the crash, was charged this week with endangering lives and disrupting public transportation.

The stationmaster, who cannot be named under Greek law, appeared before a magistrate on Sunday after receiving new information about the case and his lawyer requested additional time to respond to the charges on Saturday. Appeared. Those proceedings were ongoing.

Railroad unions say safety systems across the rail network have been inadequate for years, as remote monitoring and signaling systems were not delivered on time. They asked the government to provide a timetable for implementing safety protocols.

Mitsotakis said on Sunday that if remote systems had been installed across the rail network, “actually, the accident would not have happened.”

Greece would announce action soon, he said, adding that Athens would seek expertise from the European Commission and other countries to improve rail safety.

Pope Francis said Sunday his thoughts are with the victims of the crash. “I pray for the dead. I am close to the wounded and their relatives. May Our Lady comfort them,” he said in his weekly speech in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square.

(Reporting by Alkis Konstantinidis and Stelios Misinas; additional reporting by Angelo Amante in Rome; writing by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Frances Kerry)

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