China: Speeding caused train crash that killed 70

Probe shows Beijing to Qingdao passenger train was traveling at 131 kph before accident - far over speed limit of 80 kph.

china train crash 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
china train crash 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
Speeding was blamed Tuesday for causing China's worst train accident in a decade that killed at least 70 people and injured more than 400. The finding was delivered by an investigation panel set up by China's Cabinet, the State Council, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. It came just a little more than 24 hours after two trains collided in Shandong province in eastern China. The investigation showed a Beijing to Qingdao passenger train was traveling at 131 kilometers per hour before the accident - far over the section's speed limit of 80 kph, Xinhua said. The train jumped its tracks and collided with an oncoming passenger train on another track. The government has already sacked two railway officials over the accident. Xinhua did not say if the engineers of the trains had survived the crash, or if they were being held as part of the investigation. Work crews using heavy cranes have already cleared the tracks of damaged rail cars, with the line reopening to traffic early Tuesday. Seventy of the 416 people injured in the crash were in critical condition in hospital, according to Xinhua. No foreigners were among the dead. Injured survivors included four French nationals, a Chinese national sailing team coach and a 3-year-old boy. One middle-aged woman said she was lucky she was awake when the accident happened. "I was awake, I just got back from using the bathroom," said the woman, who would not give her name because her relatives did not know she was hurt. "People who were sleeping, they got crushed to death and wouldn't even know it," she said at the Zibo Central Hospital. The woman, who had layers of gauze wrapped around her permed hair, said the crash lasted about one minute. "I crawled out of a window. Anywhere there was space to get out, people were trying to get out," she said. A 12-year-old at the same hospital, lay on a bed in the hallway cuddling a stuffed toy dog. "I was sleeping so I don't remember much. I don't even know how I got here," said the boy, who had a broken leg. He then fell asleep before he could answer any other questions. About 1,000 soldiers and armed police were sent to the crash site to seal it off and help with the rescue work, Xinhua said. Trains are the most popular way to travel in China, and the country's overloaded rail network carried 1.36 billion passengers last year. While accidents are rare, the government is trying to extend and upgrade the state-run rail network and introduce more high-speed trains. The crash just before the May Day weekend holiday. When the train to Qingdao - site of the sailing competition during the Summer Olympics - nine of its carriages were knocked into a dirt ditch, Railway Ministry spokesman Wang Yongping said in a statement. The second train, on its way from Yantai in Shandong to Xuzhou in eastern Jiangsu province, was knocked off its tracks although it stayed upright. News photos showed several of its carriages sitting across the train tracks just outside the city of Zibo in central Shandong. Xinhua said both the director of the Railway Bureau in Jinan, the provincial capital and nearest big city, and the bureau's Communist Party Secretary, were sacked after the crash, and they face an investigation by the Ministry of Railways. It was the second major railway accident in Shandong this year. In January, 18 people died when a train hurtling through the night at more than 120 kph slammed into a group of about 100 workers carrying out track maintenance near the city of Anqiu. The accident was the worst train crash in China since 1997, when another collision killed 126 people.