China Escalates Train-Crash Response

At a State Council meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has  called for a “swift, open and transparent investigation” into the bullet-train collision which killed 39 people in . From Wall Street Journal:

Chinese Premier ordered a “swift, open and transparent investigation” into a deadly bullet-train crash amid rising public anger, and one expert alleged a lack of certain safety systems may have played a role in the accident.

Lower-ranking officials had already initiated an investigation of Saturday’s collision between two high-speed trains near the eastern city of Wenzhou, which killed at least 39 people and injured 192 others. Mr. Wen’s directive, which came at a meeting of the State Council Wednesday and was reported prominently by state media, appeared to be an effort to demonstrate the government’s seriousness, after a growing flood of criticism on China’s Internet that the response so far has been confusing and opaque.

The only explanation the government has offered for the accident came in the hours after the Saturday night collision, which derailed eight cars, sending four of them plunging off a bridge at least 15 meters high. The government said a preliminary inquiry had indicated that a lightning strike had caused one train to lose power, and that the second train then rear-ended it. It wasn’t clear from the government’s brief, initial explanation whether lightning affected the rail line’s signaling and safety systems, although experts say that could be the case.

The official account has puzzled some experts, who say that lightning strikes that disable trains and signaling and other safety systems are rare—and that even if they occur, rails systems are supposed to have backup measures that prevent collisions such as Saturday’s.

Wen also said that the results from the train collision investigation should be made public in China. From MSNBC:

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.

July 27, 2011, 2:44 PM
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Categories: Law, Politics