Train collision in China kills 35, injures 191
BEIJING (AP) – A bullet train crashed into another high-speed train that had stalled after being struck by lightning in eastern China, causing four carriages to fall off a viaduct and killing at least 35 people and injuring 191 others, state media and an official said Sunday.
It was the first derailment on China’s high-speed rail network since the country launched bullet trains in 2007 with a top speed of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour, the China Daily reported.
The first train was traveling south from the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou when it lost power in the lightning strike and was hit from behind by the second train in Wenzhou city at 8:27 p.m. (1230 GMT) Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The second train had left Beijing and both trains were destined for Fuzhou in eastern Fujian province.
The Ministry of Railways said in a statement that the first four carriages of the moving train and the last two carriages of the stalled train derailed.
An official in the Zhejiang provincial emergency office told The Associated Press that 35 people had died, including one foreign female. He said her nationality was not clear. A further 191 people were being treated at hospitals, said the official, who gave only his surname, Hua, as is common with Chinese officials.
Early Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for an all-out effort to rescue passengers still trapped in the wreckage hours after the collision, Xinhua said. China Central Television later said the search-and-rescue operation had ended by 4 a.m. Sunday.
A preliminary investigation by the Zhejiang provincial government showed that four coaches of the moving train fell off the viaduct, Xinhua said. The cars plunged about 65 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) from the elevated section of track, it said.
Photos taken at the scene showed one badly damaged car lying on its side by the viaduct and another car leaning against the viaduct after landing on its end.
Xinhua quoted an unidentified witness as saying, “Rescuers have dragged many passengers out of the coach that fell on the ground.”
The Wenzhou city government said more than 1,000 people participated in the rescue operation.
About 1,500 passengers were taken to a middle school, and more than 500 residents had given blood by 9 a.m. Sunday after appeals from the local blood bank, which said many of the injured needed transfusions, CCTV reported.
It was China’s worst train accident since April 2008, when a train traveling from Beijing to the eastern coastal city of Qingdao derailed and crashed into another train, leaving 72 people dead and another 416 injured.
Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu, who rushed to the scene, ordered an in-depth investigation of Saturday’s accident.
The trains involved are “D” trains – first-generation bullet trains with an average speed of about 95 miles (150 kilometers) per hour and not as fast as the new Beijing-Shanghai line.
China has spent billions of dollars and plans more massive spending to link the country with a high-speed rail network. Power outages and other malfunctions have plagued the showcase high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai since it opened June 30.
Official plans call for China’s bullet train network to expand to 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of track this year and 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) by 2020.
The huge spending connected with the rail expansion also has been blamed for corruption. Railways Minister Liu Zhijun was dismissed this spring amid an investigation into unspecified corruption allegations.
No details have been released about the allegations against him, but news reports say they include kickbacks, bribes, illegal contracts and sexual liaisons.
Associated Press writer Scott McDonald contributed to this report.