Authorities released on Tuesday the identity of 28 passengers killed in Saturday’s bullet train crash near Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, but a seemingly delayed press conference mirrored the lack of major progress in the investigation.
The casualty list released by Wenzhou police includes an Italian woman, Assunta Liguori, and a Chinese American, Cao Erxing. The official death toll remains at 39, with 192 more injured.
All of the 39 bodies have been claimed by their relatives, based on ID cards, clothes and other recognizable characteristics, but the results of DNA tests are still unavailable, the Xinhua News Agency reported, citing local officials.
Negotiations for compensation are also underway. Lin Yan, a relative of one of the victims, became the first to reach an agreement with the authorities on compensation. The settlement was set to 500,000 yuan ($77,625.50).
Jiang Zheng, brother of a 42-year-old victim, told the Global Times on Tuesday that initially, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) only offered a compensation of 172,000 yuan, and later increased the amount to around 500,000 yuan, which includes insurance and other costs.
“Many people still think the improved offer is too little,” Jiang said.
According to him, there are 32 teams of officials discussing compensation packages with mourning relatives, but many people, including him, have still not been contacted by any of them.
“We also need to wait in line for the deceased to be embalmed,” he added.
Media reports said that the authorities aim to complete compensation work within seven to 10 days. Those who sign compensation agreements early will also receive tens of thousands of yuan in bonuses.
The casualty list and ongoing compensation talks were the only significant progress made three days after Saturday’s fatal crash.
A meeting originally scheduled for on Tuesday morning, which was supposed to give details of the investigation, was postponed to today after a MOR official returned to Beijing to report to the State Council, china.com.cn reported on Tuesday.
However, in an e-mail reply to the Global Times, the MOR denied the official had returned to the capital. Instead, it stressed that a special investigation group has been formed by the State Council made up of experts and officials from related departments, including a deputy minister of the MOR.
Meanwhile, media reports said that workers at the crash site had moved all carriages to Wenzhou West train station for further investigation.
The train’s “black box” has been retrieved and the MOR is investigating the cause of the crash, a spokesman with the ministry said Sunday.
According to the Beijing News, Wenzhou police have denied claims that the accident was caused by a bug in the control system software and that two programmers had been arrested as a result.
Citing unnamed staff with the MOR, the newspaper said that the dismissal of He Shengli, deputy chief of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, who was in charge of electricity supply to the railways, implied that the cause of the accident could be related to an electricity shortage.
Also on Tuesday, 20 trains running on the newly launched high-speed service linking Beijing and Shanghai suffered an average delay of three hours due to a power shortage.
These were not the first such incidents since the service opened at the end of June.
A two-month nationwide safety check of railways was launched Sunday, the MOR said in a statement on Tuesday, stressing the importance of safety and promising to remove any factors that might lead to future accidents.
It said Saturday’s accident was a bitter lesson for the country’s railway expansion, and the safety check will focus on high-speed rails and passenger trains.
Zhang Zhuting, who helped draft the Law on Road Traffic Safety, told the Global Times that the investigation could be time-consuming given the complexity of advanced trains.
“The public has the right to know what really happened. Revealing information hastily is also irresponsible, considering the fact that this was the first major accident involving bullet trains in China,” Zhang said.
Judging from the information available, the accident could have been caused by a combination of device malfunction and management errors, Zhang added.
Separately, there was good news on Tuesday for 2-year-old Xiang Weiyi, who was rescued 21 hours after the collision.
Doctors in Wenzhou told Xinhua that the girl’s situation is improving every day and an amputation may not need to be performed on her left leg.
Both her parents were killed in the accident.