TEMPE, Greece (AP) — A passenger train and an oncoming freight train collided in a fiery wreck in northern Greece early Wednesday, killing 26 people and injuring at least 85, Fire Service officials said.
Multiple cars derailed and at least three burst into flame after the collision near Tempe, some 380 kilometers (235 miles) north of Athens. Hospital officials in the nearby city of Larissa said at least 25 people had serious injuries.
“The evacuation process is ongoing and is being carried out under very difficult conditions due to the severity of the collision between the two trains,” Fire Service spokesman Vassilis Varthakoyiannis said.
Hospital units used to treat burn victims had been alerted in the area, he said, and dozens of ambulances were involved in the rescue effort.
Rescuers wearing head lamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled metal from the rail cars to search for trapped people.
Passengers who received minor injuries or were unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the incident. Police took their names as they arrived in an effort to track anyone who may be missing.
A teenage survivor who did not give his name told Greek reporters as he got off one of the buses that just before the crash, he felt a strong braking and saw sparks and then there was a sudden stop.
“Our carriage didn’t derail, but the ones in front did and were smashed,” he said, visibly shaken.
He added that the first car caught fire and that he used a bag to break the window of his car, the fourth, and escape.
Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the central Thessaly area, told state television that “it was a very powerful collision” and “This is a terrible night.”
“The front section of the train was smashed. … We’re getting cranes to come in and special lifting equipment clear the debris and lift the rail cars. There’s debris flung all around the crash site.”
Officials said the army had been contacted to assist.
Rail operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki had about 350 passengers on board when the collision occurred.
Gatopoulos reported from Athens.