A passenger train collided with an oncoming freight train in northern Greece early Wednesday, killing at least 29 people and injuring some 85, Fire Service officials said.
Multiple train cars derailed and at least three caught fire after the crash near Tempe, about 380 kilometres 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,” said Fire Service spokesperson Vassilis Varthakoyiannis.
Hospital units used to treat burn victims had been alerted, he said, noting that dozens of ambulances were involved in the rescue effort.
Survivors said several passengers were thrown through train car windows due to the impact. They said others fought to free themselves after the passenger train buckled, slamming into a field next to the tracks.
Rescuers wearing head lamps worked in thick smoke, pulling pieces of mangled sheet metal from the crashed rail cars to search for trapped people. Others scoured the field with flashlights and checked under the wreckage.
A teenage survivor who did not give his name told Greek reporters that just before the crash, he felt a strong braking and saw sparks and then felt a sudden stop.
“Our carriage didn’t derail, but the ones in front did and were smashed,” he said, visibly shaken. He said the first car caught fire and that he used a bag to break the window of his car, the fourth, and escape.
“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,” he said. “We’re getting cranes to come in and special lifting equipment to clear the debris and lift the rail cars. There’s debris flung all around the crash site.”
“There was panic in the carriage, people were screaming,” a young man who was evacuated to a nearby bridge told SKAI TV.
“It was like an earthquake,” Angelos Tsiamouras, another passenger, told state broadcaster ERT.
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 with minor injuries or who were unharmed were transported by bus to Thessaloniki, 130 kilometres north of the incident.