Death Toll from China High-Speed Train Crash Reaches 33

Posted July 24th, 2011 at 8:50 am (UTC-5)
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Emergency workers in eastern China are searching for survivors in the mangled wreckage of two high-speed trains involved in a collision which left at least 33 passengers dead and nearly 200 others injured.

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 late Saturday when it was struck by lightning and lost power. The disabled train was then hit by a second high-speed train, causing two of its rail cars to fall off a bridge.

Video from the scene showed one rail car on the ground, 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.

Officials opened the line late last month with great fanfare. The Ministry of Railway'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.” 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.