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China rail officials blame crash on signal 'flaw': Xinhua

28 july 2011, 15:27
0
Workers prepare the wreckage of high-speed train carriage for transportation. ©AFP
Workers prepare the wreckage of high-speed train carriage for transportation. ©AFP
Chinese railway officials have blamed "design flaws" in signalling equipment for a high-speed train crash in which at least 39 people were killed, AFP reports, citing the official Xinhua news agency Thursday.

The system "failed to turn the green light into red" after being struck by lightning, Xinhua quoted An Lusheng, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, as saying during a meeting on the investigation into Saturday's accident.

The collision of two express trains on the outskirts of the eastern city of Wenzhou was China's deadliest rail disaster since 2008, and the worst ever to hit the country's high-speed rail network.

Nearly 200 people were also injured in the collision, which crushed some carriages and shunted others from a viaduct into fields below.

Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday called for an investigation into why a high-speed train ploughed into a second train that had apparently come to a halt.

Authorities at the weekend ordered an "urgent overhaul" of the national rail network, but Wednesday's announcement indicated the government may be trying to assuage mounting public fury over the crash.

Anger over the disaster has been compounded in recent days by allegations that authorities tried to cover up evidence by burying the wreckage.

Thousands of people have posted on China's increasingly popular micro-blogs, demanding to know why the driver of the second train, who was killed in the accident, was not told to stop in time.

They also question whether the death toll might be higher than authorities have said, and whether the nation's high-speed rail system is being developed too fast.

Some relatives of the victims, who include two Americans and an Italian, have reportedly refused compensation and demanded instead to be given answers.

The Chinese media have reportedly been ordered not to question the official line on the accident, but several newspapers have published editorials criticising the railway ministry.

In an unusually scathing editorial published in both its English and Chinese versions, the state-run Global Times on Wednesday contrasted the "bureaucratic" attitude of officials with a booming "public democracy" on the Internet.

"They (authorities) have become accustomed to only being praised in the past and when facing a crisis, they believe they can deal with the public in a bureaucratic way," said the paper.

"However, public opinion in China cannot stand this any more."

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