(Athens) To cries of “murderers”, more than 5,000 angry Greeks demonstrated outside the railway headquarters in Athens on Friday in memory of the 57 people killed in the train collision on Tuesday, other cities in the country — in mourning for three days — being the scene of demonstrations.
The invective was painted in red letters on the windows of the Greek railway company Hellenic Train implicated for numerous negligence and shortcomings having led to this disaster qualified as a “national tragedy” by the authorities and which upsets Greece, noted a AFP journalist.
In Larissa, the city closest to the scene of the accident in the center of the country, and in Patras, a university town in the Peloponnese (Southwest), demonstrations gathered respectively 700 and 500 people, according to the police.
In the Greek capital, demonstrators, who also unfurled a giant black banner, had previously observed a minute of silence in front of Parliament.
The rallies were held under the theme “We mourn our dead, we ask for the truth”.
Most universities remained closed on Friday, according to student union president Angelos Thomopoulos, while in Athens protesters waved black balloons in memory of those killed.
In the procession in front of the Parliament, signs proclaim that “this crime must not be hidden under the carpet” or even “send me a message when you arrive”, taking up the testimony of a mother whose child was kill.
The Greeks, turned upside down by this disaster, are demanding accountability despite the government’s mea culpa on the “chronic” failures of the rail network which led to the accident.
Earlier, Friday morning, the Greek police had raided the Larissa station, looking for the causes of the tragedy.
“What happened is shameful,” Maria Psachelis carried away, tears in her eyes, in the procession. ” I am very moved […] I too have a student child who was doing this journey, ”she added.
“We are filled with rage and cannot accept that such a tragic event could occur in 2023, with dozens of lives lost, including many fellow students,” said Angelos Thomopoulos.
“We take to the streets today […] to ask that responsibility be taken, so that nothing is covered up or concealed in this tragedy,” he added.
Two new demonstrations are also planned for Friday evening in Athens and Thessaloniki, the second largest city in the country where many victims were studying.
Railway workers are also called to strike on Friday, for the second consecutive day, the confederation of rail unions denouncing “the lack of respect shown by governments over time towards the Greek railways, which has led” to this drama.
According to a judicial source, the ongoing investigation aims “to initiate criminal proceedings, if necessary, against members of the management of the company” Hellenic Train.
She confirmed that “audio files, documents and other evidence that may help clarify the case and assign criminal responsibility were seized” in Larissa station.
Justice and the population want to understand why a train carrying 342 passengers and ten railway workers could be authorized to take the same single track as a convoy of goods.
The trains indeed traveled several kilometers on the same track linking Athens to Thessaloniki (North), the two largest cities in the country, before colliding head-on on Tuesday shortly before midnight.
“Why does Greece only learn lessons after the tragedies? “, asks the front page of the left-wing newspaper on Friday Your Nea.
In Thessaloniki, the country’s second city, some 2,000 demonstrators protested Thursday, venting their anger with stone throwing and Molotov cocktails.
In court, the 59-year-old station master, prosecuted for “negligent homicide” and “bodily injury”, admitted his “error”. He faces life imprisonment if proven guilty.
Media, including the public television channel ERT, have highlighted his inexperience since, according to them, he had been appointed to this post only forty days ago after a job at the Ministry of Education and a training of three month.
The trains did not run on Thursday after a call for a strike by the railway unions.
“Unfortunately, our constant demands for more permanent staff, better training but above all the adoption of modern security technologies have all been definitively tossed in the trash,” these organizations lamented.
The president of the OSE train drivers’ union, Kostas Genidounias, highlighted the safety breaches on the offending line.
” All [la signalisation] is done manually. It’s been since the year 2000 that the systems have not worked,” he got carried away.
Union representatives at the Hellenic Train railway company sounded the alarm three weeks ago.
“We are not going to wait for the accident to happen to see those responsible shed crocodile tears,” they warned.
Hellenic Train was bought in 2017 by the Italian public group Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane (FS) as part of the privatization program demanded by Greece’s creditors during the economic crisis (2009-2018).