Saturday, July 23, 2011

China: 32 dead in high speed rail crash

At least 32 people have died and more than 190 others have been injured after two high-speed trains crashed into each other in eastern China.

Two train coaches fell off a bridge after derailing close to Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai. Xinhua reported that one of the trains came to a halt after being struck by lightning and was then hit by the second train.

Rescue workers and emergency workers are still at the scene, near Shuangyu town in Wenzhou. It is not known how many people were on the trains at the time, but each carriage can carry 100 people. Some Chinese reports suggest there were more than 1,400 people on the trains.

Initial reports said one bullet train, the D3115 travelling from the provincial capital Hangzhou to Fuzhou, had derailed at about 20:30 local time [12:30 GMT]. However local television later said the first train had been forced to stop after losing power due to a lightning strike, and was then rear-ended by another train, the D301 travelling from Beijing to Fuzhou, causing some of its carriages to fall off an elevated section of track. CCTV 13 showed an animated graphic showing four carriages of the D301 falling from the track. The Chinese Ministry of Railways is reported to have said that the first four carriages were completely derailed while a further 16 on both trains were slightly derailed.

Television pictures showed one carriage lying on its side under the bridge, and the other standing on its end leaning up against the bridge. "D" trains are the first generation of bullet trains in China, with an average speed of just short of 160km/h.

The accident comes shortly after China opened its Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link which cost over 215 billion RMB [$33bn; £21bn]. The 300 km/h train halves the journey time to under five hours. The country is spending billions on constructing a high-speed rail network, however this incident may raise questions as to whether safety has been compromised. The high speed network has come under much criticism over the high costs, speed. safety concerns and corruption. In February Liu Zhijun, the Chinese Railways minister in charge of rolling out the high speed network was himself arrested on suspicion of corruption [Reports: BBC Chinese: Chinanews / CNR / tianjinwe / xiancn / Sina]

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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