Chinese Railway faces media fury over bullet train crash

Beijing: Facing media fury over the deadly bullet train crash that left 35 people dead and 192 wounded, Chinese Railway has promised transparent probe while admitting that there are several missing people still to be accounted for.

The ministry spokesman Wang Yongping found it difficult to handle the volley of questions by the media that was fired up by critical comments by microbloggers at an unlike press conference Chinese officials have ever known.

Wang started the press conference with a public apology from his ministry before he was quizzed on the low death toll figures considering the scale of the accident.

A number of people interviewed at an information centre set up near the site of the accident said they are still waiting to know the fate of their kin. Wang said according to his figures 35 were killed and 192 injured where as media reported that eight more bodies were pulled out of the wreckage taking the toll to 43.

According to state run Global Times, Train D301, carrying 558 passengers from Beijing to Fuzhou, crashed into the rear of train D3115, also heading to Fuzhou from Hangzhou with 1,072 people on board over a high bridge on Saturday.

The D3115 train was forced to halt on the 15-meter-high bridge due to lightning. It was unknown how long the D3115 had been stopped before the collision. Four of the D301’s carriages fell off the bridge, while two of the D3115’s carriages were derailed but remained on the bridge.

The spokesman was also grilled over how a high speed train could be let on the same track where one train was stuck due to power failure. He said “black boxes” of both the trains were recovered and the details would be made public.

Three officials with the Shanghai Railway Bureau were sacked on Sunday as the investigation got underway. Wang offered his condolences to the victims.

When asked about the compensation plans, he said unified standards will be applied for both Chinese and foreign passengers. A Russian and a US passenger were among the injured. This collision is the latest and most serious accident to trouble China’s high-speed railway system. Wang Mengshu, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University, said that mistakes by the engineers might have caused the collision.

“Bullet trains are equipped with automatic warning systems that alert the engineer to decelerate when another train is spotted four km ahead. When it is two km away, the engineer would be warned to brake,” Wang said.

However, the brake must be manually operated as there is no automatic braking system and therefore the judgement of the engineers must be relied upon, added Wang. (PTI)

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