Kostas Karamanlis, Greece’s Infrastructure and Transport Minister, has resigned in the aftermath of a fatal head-on collision between two trains in central Greece three days ago. At least 36 people were killed in the crash.
“It is what I feel my duty to do as a minimal sign of respect to the memory of the people who died so unjustly, taking responsibility for the chronic shortcomings of the Greek state and political system,” he said in an e-mailed press statement on Wednesday.
“From the bottom of my heart, I once again express my pain and support to the families of the victims,” he added.
According to the Greek national news agency AMNA, the government has promised a thorough investigation into the causes of one of the worst train disasters in Greek railway history.
Under unspecified circumstances near the city of Larissa on Tuesday night, a passenger train travelling from Athens to Thessaloniki, a port city in northern Greece, collided with a cargo train travelling from Thessaloniki to Athens, according to authorities quoted by Xinhua news agency.
According to the Greek Fire Service, a search and rescue operation was still underway on Wednesday, focusing on the first three carriages of the passenger train that were engulfed in flames after the collision.
According to Greek Fire Service spokesman Vasilios Vathrakogiannis, the death toll will most likely rise further based on the findings at the crash site.
He said 72 people were still in hospitals at midday on Wednesday, including six in intensive care units.
According to data provided by the Hellenic Train railways operator, the passenger train had 342 passengers and 10 employees on board, and the freight train had two employees when it crashed.
Shortly before the Minister’s resignation, the train station master in the city of Larissa was arrested, charged with manslaughter through negligence for the tragic train accident, AMNA reported, citing local police.
Greece has declared a three-day national mourning period.