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July 25, 2011

China high speed rail accident kills at least 38 and injures 192

Chinese authorities face growing public fury over the high-speed train crash that killed at least 38 people and injured 192, with the disposal of wreckage and attempts to control coverage of the incident prompting allegations of a cover-up.



Six carriages were derailed and four of those plunged 20 to 30 metres from a viaduct in Saturday's crash, when a train stalled after being struck by lightning and was rammed by another one behind it. State media said the power failure knocked out an electronic safety system that should have alerted the second train to the problem.

Zhao said the trains should have been equipped with an automatic braking system and that dispatchers should also have been able to halt the second vehicle.

The Zhejiang crash involved the first-generation high-speed trains, launched four years ago, which have a top speed of 155 mph. The former railways minister said newer trains would travel at 217mph, but after his ousting that was cut to 186mph amid safety and financial concerns.

China's railway system has been regarded as having a generally good safety record, although 72 people died in 2008 when an express train from Beijing to Qingdao derailed.

Context

The accident of this type looks like it is preventable and should have been prevented.

According to the information released by the Traffic Management Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, in the first half of 2010, a total of 99,282 traffic accidents occurred, with 27,270 killed, 116,982 injured and a direct property loss of 410 million yuan, down by 9.3%, 12%, 10.6% and 5.3% year on year, respectively, including 15 extraordinarily serious road traffic accidents causing more than 10 deaths, an increase of 3 accidents year on year.

So about 55,000 deaths per year in traffic accidents in China.

Passenger rail transport is one of the principal means of transport in the People's Republic of China, with 1.456 billion railway trips taken in 2008.


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