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Asia-Pacific
Dozens die on derailed Chinese bullet train
Ultra-fast trains collide after loss of power, causing two carriages to fall from bridge, killing 32 people.
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2011 21:07
Rescuers carry an injured man after two carriages derailed, fell off a bridge in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province [Reuters]

At least 32 people were killed on Saturday after a high-speed train smashed into another train in eastern China and derailed, raising questions about the safety of the country's fast-growing rail network.

The first bullet train lost power after being struck by lightning and was hit from behind by another high-speed train at around 1230 GMT, knocking two of its carriages off a bridge, state media reported.

"There's been a lot of talk in the country, a lot of suspicion in China about the bullet trains and in many ways this actually really confirms a lot of people's suspicions about the safety and the technology and whether China is really ready to adopt this technology," Al Jazeera's Melissa Chan said. 

The official Xinhua news agency said four cars on the second train also derailed, but it did not say how serious that incident was.

The first train was travelling from the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou; it struck the other train in Wenzhou city. One carriage from the first train fell about 20 to 30 metres from an elevated section of track.

Pictures posted on the internet showed one badly damaged car lying on its side by the bridge and the second car leaning against the bridge 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 news service earlier reported that at least 89 people were injured in the collision but did not give a new figure for the number of injured after reporting that the death toll had been raised.

First generation trains

The trains involved are "D" trains, the first generation bullet train with an average speed of about 150km per hour but not as fast as the new Beijing-Shanghai line.

Xinhua said the train hit by lightning was "D3115", and that the ministry of railways confirmed that it was hit from behind by train "D301".

China has spent billions of dollars and plans more massive spending to link the country with a high-speed rail network.

But the former minister of railways, who oversaw much of that development, is currently under investigation and charged with corruption. The showcase high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai has been plagued by power outages and other malfunctions since it opened on June 30.

Official plans call for China's bullet train network to expand to 13,000km of track this year and 16,000km by 2020.

The huge spending connected with the rail expansion also has been blamed for corruption, and 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.

Source:
Agencies
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