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Scores of people killed in worst China train crash in a decade

Updated on April 28, 2008
 

Jane Macartney, Beijing

A high-speed passenger train en route to a Chinese coastal resort has jumped the tracks and slammed into another, killing at least 66 people and injuring hundreds in the worst rail accident in the country in a decade.

Rescuers could be seen pulling passengers from one carriage that had fallen on its side, and survivors bundled in white sheets stood or sat beside the twisted wreckage after the two crowded trains collided in the middle of the night. Bloodstained sheets and broken thermos flasks were scattered on the track.

The accident happened at around 4.40am as the express train from Beijing to the 19th century Germany concession port of Qingdao derailed and hit another passenger train on a parallel track. About 10 of the express train carriages came to rest perpendicular to the track. The express would have been crowded with holidaymakers en route to the popular seaside resort for the May 1 Labour Day holiday weekend.

State media said 66 people were killed and the death toll was likely to rise. Hospitals said 247 people had been injured, including 70 reported to be in critical condition.

Officials were unable to give a reason for the crash, the worst since 1997, when more than 100 people were killed in a train crash in the central province of Hunan.

State-run Xinhua news agency did not say how many people were on board the two trains. Most passengers would have been asleep when the accident happened.

One 38-year-old woman, traveling with her 13-year-old daughter, said: "We were still sleeping when the accident occurred. I suddenly woke up when I felt the train stopped with a jolt. In a minute or two it started off again, but soon toppled." Both were unhurt and escaped from the train through a huge crack in the floor of their carriage.

The accident happened at a bend in the tracks near the two of Zibo, where hospitals were struggling to cope with the number of injured. Four of the injured were French nationals, all of whom were taken to hospital with bone fractures.

A doctor at the emergency clinic of the Zibo Center Hospital said all the major hospitals in the Zibo area were treating the injured.

State television said the rail line was built in 1897 and was due to be retired in favour of a high-speed link to be ready in time for the Olympic Games, when Qingdao will host the sailing events. Railway Minister Liu Zhijun had arrived at the site and President Hu Jintao had sent Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang.

In January, also in Shandong province, a high-speed train ran through a group of maintenance workers in the dark, killing 18. China has invested about $100 billion in its railways in the past few years and is expanding the system to accommodate what is the world's most dense passenger and freight network.

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