WENZHOU – An official with China’s Ministry of Railways late Sunday delievered an apology to all passengers following a deadly train collision in the eastern province of Zhejiang, which left 35 people dead and 192 others injured.
Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping also expressed condolences to the victims and bereaved families at a press conference Sunday night.
The accident occurred at about 8:30 pm Saturday on a viaduct near the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang when bullet train D301 rear-ended D3115. The first four cars of the moving train fell off the viaduct onto the ground below. The last two cars of the stalled train derailed.
An initial investigation showed that train D3115 lost power and stalled after being struck by lightning.
A total of 132 people are still being treated in hospital, Wang said.
Twelve people remain in critical condition, said Cheng Jinguo, deputy head of the Wenzhou health bureau.
Cheng said at the press conference that 52 people who suffered slight injuries had been discharged from hospital.
Wang said the crash has caused large number of casualties and great property losses. The ministry will find out the cause through thorough investigations and take effective measures to prevent similar accidents.
Despite the accident, the spokesman said the ministry is still confident in China’s high-speed trains.
“China’s high-speed train is advanced and qualified. We have confidence in it,” he said.
However, he also said that the high-speed railway service has only operated for a short period, and its safety is confronted with many new situations and problems.
“Safety should be put as the top priority,” Wang said.
The ministry would promptly correct the mistakes and thoroughly analyze the safety system to eradicate potential risks, he said.
The damaged rails have been repaired and were ready to resume operation but the reopening was delayed by the stormy weather, according to Wang.
Wang did not say when the line would start operating again.
According to Wang, a total of 1,072 people were on the D3115 and 558 on D301 when the accident happened.
More than 1,700 residents in Wenzhou have donated blood as of Sunday night after appeals from the local blood bank, which said many of the injured needed transfusions, according to Cheng Jinguo.
Users on the popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo spread appeals for people to donate blood and help look for lost relatives and friends.
Three railway officials were fired after the collision and would be subject to investigation, said the spokesman.
The sacked officials were Long Jing, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau; Li Jia, head of the Shanghai railway bureau’s committee of the Communist Party of China; and deputy chief of the bureau, He Shengli.
The ministry also ordered an urgent overhaul of railway and train safety nationwide.
Accounts from survivors
The deadly collision caused six cars of the trains derailed.
The first four cars of the moving train fell off the viaduct. Two carriages were piled on top of each other on the ground. One ended up in a vertical position, leaning against the viaduct.
At Wenzhou’s Kangning Hospital, which admitted 54 injured passengers, an eight-year-old boy with slight injuries was under medical observation.
His father died in the accident and his mother was still receiving emergency treatment.
“It’s my first long-distance trip,” recalled the boy, who and six of his family members were in the first carriage of the moving train.
“I heard a loud bang. Then all lights went off and the carriage began rolling. I passed out after a large baggage hit my head,” he said.
After the carriage hit the ground, the boy woke up and managed to find the gate after searching for more than 10 minutes in darkness.
“When I crawled out the coach, I saw many people crying. But I didn’t cry. I just want to find my dad and mom,” he said.
The boy saw her mother, who was in a coma, after he was brought by a passenger into the ambulance. “I shook her arms and beg her to wake up, but she didn’t speak to me,” he said.
Sixty-two-year old Feng and her family miraculously survived the tragedy by jumping from a broken window.
Feng, her husband and their 14-year-old grandson were sitting in the fourth carriage of the moving train, the one which fell of the viaduct and ended up in a vertical position.
“The lights suddenly went off. The carriage began shaking heavily and passengers were tumbling around,” said Feng, who declined to give her full name.
“We didn’t know what happened, but I instinctively shouted to my grandson, ‘Run! You run!'” Feng said.
“Then, some passengers managed to break the carriage’s window and we jumped out,” she said. “We had no idea about the height, we just jumped.”