Tue, Jan 18, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Bangkok subway closes down after smash injures 200

AGENCIES , BANGKOK

A subway train slammed into another one stopped at a station during morning rush hour yesterday, injuring as many as 200 people, six months after the subway system opened in the Thai capital, police and officials said.

Some of the victims were bleeding as rescue workers carried them up the stairs of the Cultural Center station to ambulances. Others, dazed and crying, were helped up the stairs to the street.

The badly injured driver of one of the trains was trapped in the wreckage until rescue workers pulled him out, said Yupadee Srinak, spokeswoman for the underground train service.

An executive of the company managing the system said an initial investigation found that the crash resulted from a computer problem.

"The signal from the computer that controls the trains was disappearing from time to time, and there was no computer signal at the time of the accident," Praphat Jongsanguan said.

The number of people hurt, initially reported to be in the dozens, climbed to about 190 as hospitals reported new admissions.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreunkij ordered the train service suspended indefinitely.

"The subway service has to be suspended until the authorities concerned come up with the results of their investigations and can ensure the passengers that the security and all computer systems are functioning perfectly," he said.

Suriya ruled out the possibility of sabotage by terrorists.

The accident occurred in central Bangkok when an empty train leaving a repair station smashed into the back of one filled with about 700 passengers, he said. Both trains were badly damaged.

Witnesses spoke of a heavy impact, and then darkness as they struggled to clamber out of the stricken carriages.

"From what I can see, there was no death. But many of the injured were carried out on stretchers, some with dislocated shoulders," Lieutenant Colonel Somnuk Pothanapan said.

"The impact of the crash sent people sprawling on the floor," an office worker on the train told a TV station. "The power went off and we groped around in the dark for five to 10 minutes. Finally we helped ourselves pry open the automated door to get out."

An official said the empty train appeared to have come out of a service tunnel at the station.

"It happened because a train accidentally slid out of a maintenance section of the station and ran into another train that was waiting for passengers to board," the official said.

Thanyachan Srithongkam, a lawyer who witnessed the accident, said he was lucky to miss the damaged train.

"I missed the crowded train that was hit because the doors closed before I could get on it. Then this other train with only the driver on it came in from the opposite direction," Thanyachan said.

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