At least 36 people were killed and dozens injured in a head-on collision between two trains in Greece, local authorities said.

The crash took place outside the central city of Larissa late on Tuesday, when a passenger train heading from the capital, Athens, to Thessaloniki collided with a cargo train travelling from the northern city.

Some of the passenger carriages exploded in flames from the impact.

Rail operator Hellenic Train reported about 350 people had been on the passenger train, which left Athens at 7.22pm (19:22 GMT).

Kostas Karamanlis, Greece’s transport minister, resigned after visiting the site of the crash, saying he felt it was his “duty” to step down.

“The pain is unspeakable,” he said. “When something so tragic happens, it is not possible to carry on as if nothing happened.

“I consider it a necessary element of our democracy that the citizens of our country trust the political system. This is called political responsibility.”

At least 66 people were injured in the crash, including six in intensive care, while about 250 passengers, some with minor injuries, were evacuated safely by bus to Thessaloniki, about 130km (80 miles) away.

Hospital units used to treat burn victims in the area were alerted and dozens of ambulances dispatched to the scene.