China Meets Public Anger With Rail Safety Review

Posted July 26th, 2011 at 6:55 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

China has ordered a two-month review of safety measures on its railways amid rising public anger over a train crash Saturday that killed 39 people.

Railway Minister Sheng Guangzu was quoted in state media Tuesday saying the inspection campaign will focus on rectifying safety problems and “stabilizing the safety situation.”

Major Chinese newspapers carried prominent articles focusing on public outrage over the accident, caused when a lightning strike stalled a high-speed train on a bridge. A second train slammed into the back of it, sending several carriages careening to the ground below.

China Daily spoke of the public's “shattered confidence” in the rail system and cited an online poll in which only 15 percent of a quarter million respondents said they think the nation's railways are safe.

Another paper, Global Times, carried an article under the headline, “Anger mounts at lack of answers on train crash.” It said about 30 relatives of victims of the crash gathered outside a local government office Monday night to demand an accounting from railway officials.

The public has seized on the story of a 2-year-old girl who was pulled from the wreckage almost a full day after the crash. Doctors said Tuesday they no longer believe they will have to amputate the girl's leg, but both of her parents were killed.

Online forums have been filled with complaints that the government has not adequately explained the accident. Many also question the nation's rapid construction of high-speed rail lines in a program that has been tainted by charges of bribery and corruption.

The previous railways minister, Liu Zhijun, was forced to resign in February amid allegations that millions of dollars was embezzled from the program. The ministry managed more than $100 billion in high-speed rail projects last year.

Saturday's accident occurred on a high-speed rail line in eastern China between the cities of Hangzhou and Wenzhou. Earlier this month, another train on the high-profile Beijing to Shanghai line was halted for hours when a lightning strike knocked out its electrical power.

Chinese officials Sunday apologized to the latest victims and said an investigative panel will determine the cause of the crash. Three top officials of the Shanghai Railway Bureau have already been dismissed.

Service on the rail line resumed Monday.