70 Killed, 400 Hurt in Train Collision in China

Two trains collided in eastern China on April 28, killing dozens and injuring several hundred people in what is believed to be China's worst accident in more than a decade.

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By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, April 29, 2008

BEIJING, April 28 -- A speeding express train derailed and crashed into an oncoming regional train early Monday in eastern China, throwing a dozen carriages down an embankment and killing at least 70 people, authorities said.

More than 400 people from both trains were injured, including four French nationals who were hospitalized with broken bones, the official New China News Agency reported, citing the Shandong provincial government. No foreigners were reported among the dead.

An investigation panel set up by the State Council, or Cabinet, said speeding was responsible for the collision, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday. Authorities had earlier been quoted as saying that human error was to blame.

The accident was believed to be China's worst in more than a decade. Another collision killed 126 people in 1997, according to China's NetEase Internet site.

The high-speed express train was traveling from Beijing to Qingdao, a city on the Yellow Sea where China's best-known beer, Tsingtao, is produced and where sailing races will be held during the summer's Beijing Olympics. Many of the travelers were getting an early start on China's traditional May Day holiday, which will begin Thursday.

The New China News Agency said the Qingdao-bound train slipped its tracks about 4:40 a.m. near Zibo, 80 miles east of Jinan, the provincial capital, and slammed into a train headed from nearby Yantai to Xuzhou in neighboring Jiangsu province. The second train was knocked from its rails by the impact.

Most passengers were asleep at the midway point of an overnight journey. The news agency said its reporters saw bloodstained sheets and broken thermos bottles scattered about the crash site.

The official investigation showed that the train was traveling 81 miles per hour before the accident, far over the section's speed limit of 50 mph, Xinhua said.

As roadbeds are improved, China has raised the permitted speed of its express routes, with trains topping 130 mph in many areas. Construction has begun on even faster trains, with speeds up to 200 mph, that will run between Beijing and Shanghai.

The accident was this year's second in Shandong province. A high-speed train from Beijing to Qingdao plowed into a group of railway workers in January, killing 18.

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