TEMPE, Greece — A passenger train collided with an oncoming freight train in northern Greece early on Wednesday, killing 29 people and injuring at least 85, officials from Greece’s Fire Service said.
Multiple train cars derailed and at least three caught fire after the crash near Tempe, a small town about 235 miles 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,” Vassilis Varthakoyiannis, a Fire Service spokesman, said. Hospital units used to treat burn victims had been alerted in the area, he said, adding that dozens of ambulances were involved in the rescue effort.
Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars. 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.
“It was a very powerful collision. This is a terrible night,” Costas Agorastos, the regional governor of the central Thessaly area, told state-run television. “The front section of the train was smashed.”
The governor added that cranes and “special lifting equipment” were coming in to clear the debris and lift the rail cars. “There’s debris flung all around the crash site,” he said.
The cause of the collision was not immediately clear. Two rail officials were being questioned by the police but had not been detained.
Passengers who sustained minor injuries or were unharmed were taken by bus to Thessaloniki, about 80 miles to the north. Police took their names as they arrived, in an effort to track anyone who might be missing.
A teenage survivor getting off one of the buses, who did not give his name, told Greek reporters that just before the crash, he had felt a strong braking and seen sparks.
His carriage didn’t derail, but others in front of it did and were smashed, he said, visibly shaken. He said he used a bag to break a window and escape.
Government officials said the army had been contacted to assist in the rescue. Hellenic Train, a rail operator, said the passenger train, heading northbound from Athens to Thessaloniki, had about 350 passengers on board when the collision occurred.