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5 Mar, 2023 15:03

Police clash with Athens protesters during train-tragedy memorial

Demonstrators blame Tuesday's tragedy on the Greek government’s cost-cutting policies in railway sector
Police clash with Athens protesters during train-tragedy memorial

Violent scenes unfolded in the Greek capital Athens on Sunday as a rally overheated and protesters vented their anger by attacking police officers. At the event to commemorate victims of a deadly train crash on Tuesday, railway workers claimed years of government underinvestment had led to the tragedy.

As many as 10,000 people attended in front of the Greek Parliament shortly after midday, with students and left-wing activists joining railway workers. Demonstrators released black balloons into the sky, chanting “this crime won’t be forgotten!” and waving placards with slogans such as “their policies cost human lives!” – an apparent reference to the Greek government's cost-cutting exercises.

At least 57 people lost their lives and scores more sustained injuries on Tuesday night when a passenger train with more than 350 on board collided head-on with a freight train on the same track near the town of Tempe, close to Greece’s eastern coast.

During the course of the event, a small group of hooded protesters began pelting police with petrol bombs, with officers in riot gear responding with tear gas and stun grenades. Several arrests were also made.

The crash proved to be the deadliest of its kind in living memory in that country.

According to Reuters, the train, which was traveling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki, was full of university students returning after a long holiday weekend.

Railway workers have been holding rotating walkouts since Wednesday to denounce a chronic lack of funding in the rail infrastructure. Unions are describing the safety systems in their current form as inadequate.

While Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government blamed human error for the collision, he acknowledged on Sunday that, if there had been a remote security system in place, “it would have been, in practice, impossible for the accident to happen.

Taking to Facebook, the premier apologized to the entire nation and to the relatives of the victims in particular, pledging a swift investigation into the tragedy.