Pope Francis expresses his sorrow and condolences for a head-on train crash in Greece, which killed at least 36 people and injured over 85 others.
By Devin Watkins
The Pope sent a message on Wednesday to express his condolences for Tuesday night’s train crash near the Greek city of Larissa, assuring those affected of his prayers.
“Entrusting the souls of the deceased to the loving mercy of Almighty God, [Pope Francis] offers heartfelt condolences to the families who mourn their loved ones.”
He also conveyed his blessing upon those injured in the head-on collision and the emergency workers who are providing assistance “as a pledge of strength and solidarity in the Lord.”
Pope Francis’ telegram was signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and addressed to Bishop Petros Stefanou of Syros, president of the Greek Bishops’ Conference.
A passenger train collided head-on with a freight train in the northern Tempi Valley on Tuesday night.
Several cars derailed and a few burst into flames. The train was carrying 342 passengers and 10 crew, and 2 crew were manning the freight train.
At least 36 people were killed in the collision as of midday on Wednesday, but officials expected the death toll to rise further.
Rescuers spent Wednesday searching through the twisted hulk of the trains in a rush to reach survivors.
A 28-year-old passenger, Stergios Minenis, told Reuters news agency that a fire broke out immediately after the crash. “As we were turning, over we were being burned; fire was right and left,” he said.
Several passengers broke windows with their luggage in order to crawl from the wreckage.
National mourning for victims
Greece’s government has declared 3 days of national mourning, and ordered flags to fly at half-mast until Friday in honor of those who died in the crash.
Many of the passengers were reportedly traveling home after a long holiday weekend to mark the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent.
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou cut short a visit to Moldova on Wednesday, and expressed her sorrow over the crash.
“I express my condolences to those who lost loved ones or suffered in this disaster,” she said. “Even at this moment, a life-saving operation is going on to help those who are on this death train.”