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Two trains collide in Greece, 26 killed, at least 85 injured

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Smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers operate after a collision near Larissa city, Greece, early Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The collisio...

Smoke rises from trains as firefighters and rescuers operate after a collision near Larissa city, Greece, early Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The collisio...

Twenty-six people were killed and at least 85 injured after two trains collided head-on in Greece late on Tuesday night, the fire brigade said, while the circumstances of the crash remained unclear.

An intercity passenger train travelling from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki collided with a cargo train outside the city of Larissa in central Greece, said the governor of the Thessaly region.

"The collision was very strong," governor Konstantinos Agorastos told SKAI TV, adding the first four carriages of the passenger train had derailed.

The first two carriages, which caught fire after the collision, were "almost completely destroyed," said Agorastos.

About 250 passengers were evacuated safely to Thessaloniki on buses. One passenger told state broadcaster ERT he managed to escape after breaking the train window with his suitcase.

"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 ERT.

Broadcaster SKAI showed footage of derailed carriages, badly damaged with broken windows and thick plumes of smoke, as well as debris strewn across the road. Rescue workers were seen carrying torches in carriages looking for trapped passengers.

"The evacuation of passengers is under way in very difficult conditions given the severity of the collision of the two trains," fire brigade spokesperson Vassilis Varthakogiannis said in a televised address.

In the early hours of Wednesday, footage from state broadcaster ERT showed rescue workers with headlights searching the wreckage and surrounding fields for survivors.

Local media reported about 350 people were travelling on the passenger train, which departed Athens around 19:30 local time (0530 GMT). The fire brigade said it was informed of the accident shortly before midnight on Tuesday. The cargo train had been travelling from Thessaloniki to Larissa.

The passenger train is operated by the Italian group Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, which according to its website is the main provider of rail transport for passengers and freight in Greece and runs 342 passenger and commercial routes a day.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Grant McCool, Stephen Coates, Michael Perry and Simon Cameron-Moore)