China premier orders probe into deadly train crash

July 27, 2011 - 7:14 AM
China Train Crash

Relatives of the victims in Saturday's train crash talk to the media as they hold a banner demanding pursuit of truth of the accident during a protest at Wenzhou South Railway Station in Wenzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. The Chinese government on Tuesday ordered a two-month, nationwide safety campaign for its railway system after a collision between two bullet trains killed dozens of people. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT, NO LICENSING IN CHINA, FRANCE, HONG KONG, JAPAN AND SOUTH KOREA

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday ordered a sweeping and transparent probe into the weekend collision between two bullet trains that killed at least 39 people and raised public anger about the government's handling of the accident.

Facts must be uncovered, responsible parties held to account, and investigation results made public, Wen told a cabinet meeting, according to a news release posted to the government's official website.

"Provide the people with an honest, responsible reckoning," Wen said.

Six carriages derailed and four fell about 65 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) from a viaduct Saturday night after one train plowed into the back of a stalled train. More than 190 people were injured.

The government on Tuesday ordered a two-month safety campaign for its railway system amid questions about how the crash occurred. Wen called for the campaign to be widened to target all transport infrastructure, coal mines, construction sites, and industries dealing with dangerous chemicals.

The accident was the biggest blow yet to China's burgeoning high speed rail ambitions that have been highlighted as a symbol of the countries rising economic and technological prowess.

Rapid expansion of the services has been dogged by concerns about safety, corruption scandals and criticism that schedules are impractical and tickets too expensive for ordinary Chinese. Open just one month, the much-ballyhooed 820-mile (1,318-kilometer) Beijing-Shanghai line has been plagued by power outages and other malfunctions.

Saturday's accident outside the eastern city of Wenzhou prompted an outpouring of anger among the public and even in the usually docile state media, with questions posed over the cause of the crash and the government's handling of the aftermath.

The sacking of three top officials at the Shanghai Railway Bureau did little to tamp down criticism that authorities made only passing attempts to rescue survivors while ordering tracks swiftly cleared to restore service.

It also isn't known why the second train wasn't warned about the stalled train ahead of it, despite anti-collision technology being standard on such lines.