China train collision toll mounts to 70 (Second lead)

April 28th, 2008 - 7:54 pm ICT by admin  

Jinan (China), April 28 (Xinhua) At least 70 people were killed and more than 400 injured when a high-speed passenger train jumped the track in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong early Monday hitting another train, authorities said. The Jinan Railway Bureau said 51 of the injured were in critical condition.

One of the trains was en route from Beijing to Qingdao, a famous summer resort in Shandong and venue of the Olympic sailing competition, and the other from Shandong’s Yantai to Xuzhou in eastern Jiangsu province.

Among the injured were four French nationals, all of who have been hospitalised with fractures, a spokesman with the provincial foreign affairs office said. But he did not give details about the foreigners. The foreign office said there was no report of any foreign passenger dying in the accident.

The train from Beijing derailed in the city of Zibo in Shandong province at 4:43 a.m. About 10 carriages crashed into a ditch. The derailed train then hit the other train, which veered off its tracks under the impact.

Preliminary investigations suggested the Beijing-Qingdao train was travelling at 131 km per hour before the accident, far in excess of the speed limit of 80 km per hour between Zhoucun and Wangcun.

Rescue teams with medical workers and policemen rushed to the scene of the accident from the neighbouring Jinan and Weifang cities, a provincial government spokesman said.

Many villagers and survivors joined the rescue work using farm tools to break open sealed windows to rescue those trapped and took them to medical aid centres using blankets as stretchers.

Immediately after the accident, two top officials of the Jinan Railway Bureau were sacked. The sacked officials, bureau’s former director Chen Gong and former Communist Party chief Chai Tiemin, face an investigation by the railways ministry.

Vice premier Zhang Dejiang, railways minister Liu Zhijun and head of the state administration of work safety Wang Jun rushed to the site to oversee rescue work.

The accident disrupted two-way traffic on the Jinan-Qingdao Railway, a 384-km pivotal rail link between the two big cities in Shandong.

This is the second major railway accident in Shandong this year.

In January, a high-speed train from Beijing to Qingdao ran down a group of railway workers, leaving 18 dead and nine others injured.

China had raised train speeds six times their normal speed, with the government railways allowing a speed of more than 200 km per hour on 6,227 km of track countrywide.

By 2020, the total length of such high-speed railway track will reach 18,000 km and high-speed train services will cover 50,000 km, benefiting 90 percent of China’s population.

The nation has started building several new high-speed rail projects, including the new Beijing-Tianjin railway and the Beijing-Shanghai railway. The latter, with a designed speed of 350 km per hour, started construction in mid April.

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