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Politics

Mitsotakis Apologizes, Says “Human Error” Alone Didn’t Cause Train Crash

After media reports pointing toward apparent neglect in failing to implement safety systems, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized for a head-on train collision that killed at least 57 people after he said it mainly due to “human error.”

That was seen by critics and political rivals as trying to deflect blame and point the finger at a station master who admitted a mistake in having a passenger train and cargo train on the same line, but who also said automated systems weren’t working.

In a statement without facing reporters, Mitsotakis said it should not be possible for two trains moving in opposite directions “to be on the same track and not be noticed by anyone,” said CNN.

https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/05/europe/greek-prime-minister-apologizes-intl/index.html

“As Prime Minister, I owe everyone, but above all to the relatives of the victims, a big sorry. Both personally, and in the name of all those who ruled the country for years,” Mitsotakis said, avoiding questions.

“We cannot, will not, and must not hide behind human error,” he said in the disaster that has left dozens missing and brought rage against his government ahead of upcoming elections and fury against the railway company.

There was no indication why he changed his tone although there was an immediate backlash against his “human error” claim as more media reports pointed to his government – as did others – failing to fix a rail system that has the worst safety record in the European Union.

The statement acknowledged delays in adding safety systems despite the country receiving billions of euros in EU aid to modernize it and an Italian company that bought it in a 2017 privatization,  Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, not reporting what, or if, it had done anything to make improvements.

Mitsotakis said there would be more announcements to “immediately improve the safety of the railways,” without explaining why that wasn’t done after he took office in July, 2019 and elections coming soon.

The station master was arrested and is facing an array of charges but no blame was placed on Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis who resigned and said he inherited a broken system that he tried to fix without explaining how.

A three-member investigating panel was named but one of the members immediately stepped down over criticism because he had previously been head of the train system and let go staff.

Greece has the worst record for railways safety in the 27-member European Union and a long line of government have done essentially nothing to make it better, the trains known for delays and being a risky way to travel.

Protests broke out in Athens and Thessaloniki as fury built over the accident that happened on a voyage from the capital to Greece’ second-largest city, the train packed with students returning after annual carnival celebrations held for the first time in three years because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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