China train accident: Death toll rises to 43, 3 officials sacked

Last Updated: Monday, July 25, 2011 - 00:52

Beijing: The death toll in China`s first
bullet train crash has risen to 43 as the shocked government
on Sunday sacked three top rail officials holding them responsible
for the accident that also left 211 passengers injured.

The accident took place last night when a train that
lost power after being struck by lightning was hit by another
train, sending four compartments plunging from a viaduct and
derailing another two, officials said as rescuers today
recovered eight more bodies from the wreckage.

The first train was travelling south from Hangzhou,
the capital of southern Zhejiang Province, when it lost power
and stalled, before being hit by another train in Wenzhou
city, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

There was, however, some good news as a toddler was
rescued about 21 hours after the deadly crash, the state-run
Xinhua news agency reported.

"When we found him, he could still move his hands,"
a local firefighter said, adding clean-up efforts have nearly
been completed.

The sacked officials are Long Jing, head of the
Shanghai Railway Bureau, Li Jia, head of the Shanghai railway
bureau`s committee of the Communist Party of China and deputy
chief of the bureau He Shengli. They will also be subject to
investigation.

Pan Yiheng, the driver of one train died after the
brake handle pierced through his chest under the impact of the
collusion. He managed to apply the emergency brake at the last
moment of his life.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao
called for all-out efforts to rescue passengers and ordered to
make rescue work a priority.

Mayor of Wenzhou Zhao Yide said there were over 1,400
passengers on the two trains. "Searches are underway and we
won`t allow a single sign of life to slip away."

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rushed to Wenzhou
to oversee the relief work and conduct investigation.

An elderly woman and her family survived the crash by
jumping through a broken window of the deformed train
carriage.

"The lights suddenly went off. The carriage began
shaking heavily and passengers were stumbling around," said
Feng, who declined to give her full name. "We didn`t know what
happened, but I instinctively shouted to my boy, `Run! You
run! It`s okay if grandma dies`."

Passengers on the train were also crying for help via
microblog soon after the accident.

A microblogger named "Sam Is Me" wrote on weibo.com
that he was stranded in a coach on the railway in Wenzhou
City. "Please help me!...Help!!! Help!!!" he wrote. "I`m so
scared."

The accident was a major set back to the high speed
rail network in China which has been launched with lot of
fanfare and billions of dollars of investment. It was also the
first derailment on China`s high-speed rail network since the
bullet trains were launched with a top speed of 250 kilometres
per hour in 2007.

The operation of 58 trains was suspended, railway
authorities said, adding the damaged train tracks were under
repair, with service expected to be resumed later today.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, July 24, 2011 - 08:57

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