China High-Speed Train Crash Kills 32

Posted July 23rd, 2011 at 4:40 pm (UTC-5)
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A lightning strike knocked out power to a high-speed train in eastern China late Saturday, sparking a crash and derailment that killed at least 32 people and injured more than 90 others.

China's official Xinhua news agency said an older generation bullet train was traveling from Hangzhou, the capital of eastern Zhejiang province, to the city of Wenzhou when it lost power. The disabled train was then hit by a second high-speed train, forcing two of its rail cars off a bridge.

Video from the scene showed one rail car on the ground, having fallen 20 to 30 meters, with a second hanging off the bridge above it. Xinhua quoted witnesses as saying rescue workers have dragged many passengers out of the car that fell on the ground.

China has spent billions of dollars to connect its cities with high speed rail, but this is the second time in recent weeks a storm has been blamed for causing problems.

Earlier this month, a storm-induced power failure caused a 90-minute delay on the new Beijing-to-Shanghai line. Several passengers complained on Twitter-like microblogs about conditions on the trains, which were left without lights or air conditioning.

Officials opened the Beijing-to-Shanghai line late last month with great fanfare. The Ministry of Railways' chief engineer, He Hua Wu, told reporters taking the inaugural trip that the new rail link is the “pride of China and Chinese people.”

Using China's newest high-speed trains, the 1,300-kilometer trip between China's capital and its financial hub takes less than five hours.

Critics say the multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail plan is too expensive for a country where millions of people live in poverty, and that the lines are being built primarily to boost Beijing's prestige.