TEMPE, Greece (AP) — A passenger train collided with an oncoming freight train in northern Greece early Wednesday, killing 16 people and injuring at least 85, Fire Service officials said. Multiple train cars derailed and at least three caught fire after the crash 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, adding that dozens of ambulances were involved in the rescue effort.
Rescuers wearing head lamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled sheet metal from the crashed rail cars to search for trapped people.
“It was a very powerful collision. This is a terrible night… It’s hard to describe the scene,” Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the central Thessaly area, told state-run television. “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.”
Government officials said the army has been contacted to assist in the rescue. Rail operator Hellenic Train said the northbound passenger train from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki had about 350 passengers on board when the collision occurred. Passengers who received minor injuries or were unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the incident.