High Speed Train Derails in China

Posted July 23rd, 2011 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
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Two cars from one of China's new, high-speed bullet trains have derailed, falling off a bridge.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said the train derailed late Saturday in China eastern Zhejiang province.

Officials said rescue crews are on their way to the scene but they had no immediate information about possible casualties.

The train had been traveling from the provincial capital of Hangzhou to the city of Wenzhou when it went off the tracks.

Chinese officials opened the country's high speed rail line late last month with great fanfare.

At the time, the Ministry of Railways's chief engineer, He Hua Wu, told reporters taking the inaugural trip that the new rail link is the “pride of China and Chinese people.”

China has spent billions of dollars to build the 1,300 kilometer line from Beijing and Shanghai. Travelling at 300 kilometers per hour, the line radically cuts travel time between China's capital and its financial hub to less than five hours.

Critics say the multi-billion-dollar 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.

Earlier this month, a storm-induced power failure caused a 90-minute delay. Several passengers complained on Twitter-like microblogs about conditions on the trains, which were left without lights or air conditioning. The China Daily newspaper quoted one blogger saying her carriage “is stifling, and there is a lack of oxygen.” Another wrote that passengers were beginning to “lose patience and become agitated.”