China’s rail minister, facing public outrage over Saturday’s deadly train crash, has ordered a two-month safety review of railway operations and apologized for the accident, which killed 39 people, state media reported yesterday.
Internet users have flooded Web sites and microblogs with comments following the crash in Zhejiang Province, the country’s deadliest rail accident since 2008.
Even before the investigation into the cause of the crash was complete, Beijing on Sunday fired three middle-level railway officials.
Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily quoted Chinese Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖) as saying a range of railway officials would be directed to work on front-line operations during the next two months to learn from the accident.
He said the safety campaign would extend through the end of September and would focus on high-speed rail and passenger trains, such as implementing maintenance standards and reinforcing checks on power connections to pre-empt outages.
Special attention would also be paid to prevent accidents caused by flooding and inclement weather, the minister said.
Comments on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo suggested the government would have to work very hard to subdue broad public anger at the crash.
In one online Weibo survey, 98 percent of more than 5,000 respondents answered “only devils could believe” the official death toll of 39.
“We’ve seen the kind--heartedness of the Chinese -people [during this disaster] and the shameless avarice of those who govern us,” one person who goes by the name “well-behaved partition 57” wrote. “Those who lie to the great Chinese people should be made to pay the price.”
The government has now begun paying compensation to the victims’ families, with the first family accepting 500,000 yuan (US$77,500), the Xinhua news agency reported.
The Global Times, a widely read tabloid published by the People’s Daily, wondered in an editorial why China was able to develop so fast economically, yet ignore safety standards taken for granted in the West.
“As the world is experiencing globalization and integration, why can’t China provide the same safety to its people?” the editorial asked.
The ministry is still investigating the cause of the accident. State media has said a bullet train hit another express train that lost power following a lightning strike, adding that the power failure knocked out an electronic safety system designed to alert conductors about stalled locomotives on the line.
Separately, on Monday more than 20 trains were delayed for up to three hours because of a power outage on the flagship high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai, the latest malfunction to plague the line since its grand opening late last month, Chinese media reported yesterday.
The power cut happened after a storm in Anhui Province blew down an iron sheet, cutting off the power supply on Monday evening, the state-run Beijing News reported, citing an official from the Shanghai railway bureau.
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