(CNN) Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has apologized for one of the country’s worst train accidents in years, saying “we cannot, and we will not, hide behind human error.”
A passenger train carrying more than 350 people collided with a freight train on Tuesday night in Tempe near the city of Larissa, killing at least 57 people and injuring dozens.
Protesters poured into the streets in the aftermath of the fatal accident, amid widespread anger over the country’s railway safety record. Fresh unrest broke out on Sunday as protesters clashed with police in Athens, in scenes expected to be shown across the country.
One of the slogans during Sunday’s protest in Athens was: “This crime should not be covered up, we will be the voice of all the dead.”
In a statement, Mitsotakis said it should not be possible for two trains traveling in opposite directions to “be on the same track and not be noticed.”
“As prime minister, I am indebted to everyone, but above all to the relatives of the victims,” Mitsotakis said.
The reference to human error indicates a change in the prime minister’s tone. In the aftermath of the collision, he blamed “tragic human error”.
Although his latest statement indicated systemic problems in the Greek railway network, he promised announcements in the coming days in order to “immediately improve railway safety”.
On Thursday, after the arrest of a train station manager in Larissa, Greek authorities made public transmission recordings revealing that one of the train drivers involved had been instructed to ignore a red light.
Greece has a poor record for rail passenger safety compared to other countries in Europe, having the highest rate of railway fatalities per million train kilometers from 2018 to 2020 out of 28 countries on the continent, according to a 2022 report by the European Union Rail Agency. .
The head-on collision resulted in the fall of vehicles and debris, some of which were burned. Many of those on the train were young men returning home from the weekend.
The country’s transport minister resigned in the wake of the tragedy, and the railway workers’ union went on strike, accusing the government of neglecting the system.
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