Lightning Sparks Chinese Train Crash, 11 Dead

Posted July 23rd, 2011 at 12:50 pm (UTC-5)
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A lightning strike knocked out power to a high-speed train, sparking a crash and derailment that has killed at least 11 people in China and injured almost 90.

China's state-run Xinhua news agency said an older generation bullet train was hit by lightning late Saturday while traveling between the provincial capital of Hangzhou to the city of Wenzhou in the country's eastern Zhejiang province.

They said 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 shows one rail car on the ground with a second hanging off the bridge above it. Xinhua quotes witnesses as saying rescue workers have been dragging victims out of the car that hit 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. 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.”

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.