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Greece train crash: Rescuers search wreckage for survivors

Work was still underway hours after the crash to find more survivors amid the wreckage

Work was still underway hours after the crash to find more survivors amid the wreckage

Rescue crews in Greece on Wednesday scoured the charred wreckage of a passenger train that derailed near the central city of Larissa overnight killing at least 36 people.

The incident is already being described as the worst of its kind in Greece's history, with the death toll expected to rise as rescuers work through the debris.

At least 66 people have been hospitalized, some of them with serious injuries.

What caused the crash?

The passenger train headed from the capital, Athens, to the northern port of Thessaloniki collided head-on with a commercial freight train that had ended up on the same track just before midnight on Tuesday in the Thessaly region.

The first four carriages of the passenger train were derailed, with the first two catching fire.

The train departed from the Greek capital at 7:22 p.m. local time on Tuesday evening and crashed near the city of Larissa.

It is not yet known why the trains were traveling on the same stretch, but the passenger train had just emerged from a tunnel.

"They were traveling at great speed and one (driver) didn't know the other was coming," Thessaly regional governor Konstantinos Agorastos said.

Two large cranes on the site were starting to clear parts of the wreckage as morning broke Wednesday. Rescuers worked to free any passengers stuck in the mangled remains, still discovering victims hours later.

According to Hellenic Train data, the passenger train was carrying 342 travelers and 10 crew, while the cargo train had two crew on board.

President cuts short foreign visit

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Wednesday said she was cutting short a visit to Moldova to return to Greece.

"Unfortunately, I have to interrupt my visit in order to be close to my people, to support those who need it," she told a joint news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her condolences on Twitter.

"The whole of Europe is mourning with you," von der Leyen wrote. "My thoughts are with the people of Greece after the terrible train accident that claimed so many lives last night near Larissa."

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola offered her sympathy to "all victims, their families and friends."

"Grateful to all rescuers and medical staff on site," she added.

The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, said he was "shocked by the news and images of the collision of the two trains."

"My thoughts are with the people in Greece this morning," he tweeted.

rc/nm (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)