Tens of thousands march in Greece in angry train crash protest

AFP

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Greece on Wednesday and workers went on strike in the biggest show of public anger yet over the country's deadliest train disaster that killed 57 people last week.

The crash on February 28 has stirred public outrage over the crumbling state of the rail network. Striking workers say years of neglect, underinvestment and understaffing - a legacy of Greece's decade-long debt crisis - are to blame.

In the largest street protests the government has faced since being elected in 2019, police estimated more than 60,000 people, among them transport workers, students and teachers, took part in demonstrations in cities across Greece.

More than 40,000 people marched to parliament in central Athens alone, chanting "Murderers!" and "We are all in the same carriage".

Violence briefly broke out when a group of protesters clashed with riot police, who fired tear gas at the crowd. Protesters hurled petrol bombs in front of parliament and set a van and garbage bins on fire.

Thousands also took to the streets in Greece's second-biggest city of Thessaloniki, where a group of protesters hurled stones at a government building.

Many of the around 350 people aboard an intercity passenger train that collided head-on with a freight train while travelling on the same track were university students heading north to Thessaloniki from Athens.

"Message me when you get there," a placard in Athens read, echoing what has become one of the slogans of the protests over the past week.

"You feel angry because the government did nothing for all of those kids. The public transport is a mess," said 19-year-old Nikomathi Vathi.

"We're going to be here until things change," said another student, Vaggelis Somarakis.

The conservative government, which had been planning to call an election in the coming weeks, promised on Wednesday to fix the ailing rail system.

Transport Minister George Gerapetritis told a news conference he understood the anger the accident had caused.

"No train will set off again, if we have not secured safety at the maximum possible level," he said after announcing a suspension of the service while it reviews safety.

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