The Ministry of Railways has finally apologised for the catastrophic high-speed rail collision in Wenzhou.
China Daily says two foreigners have been identified among the dead, but did not offer more details regarding their identity.
Heads are beginning to roll. Among those dismissed from office so far are Long Jing, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau; Li Jia, head of the Shanghai railway bureau’s committee of the Communist Party of China; and He Shengli, deputy chief of the bureau.
Furious netizens are, however, baying for the blood of Minister of Railways, Sheng Guangzu (盛光祖). A post by author and independent candidate Li Chengpeng (李承鹏) asking Sheng to leave has been retweeted over 12,000 times. Another Weibo petition demanding the resignation of Sheng has been shared over 11,000 times.
Highly curious. The Ministry of Railways has altered the timing of the accident from 20:34 to 20:27 and state media has followed suit. One eye-witness says the train in front was still rolling along slowly at 20:27. The collision happened seven minutes later. Conspiracy theories abound as to why the ministry has altered the timing.
58 train services have been suspended, including 23 departing from Shanghai. Expect flight ticket prices to rise.
More after the jump…
Locals in the vicinity of the collision site are convinced that authorities are burying the train carriages as soon as they can. None of those allegations have been verified.
More catastrophic than the accident itself is the Ministry of Railways’ handling of the crisis. At 4am Sunday, state media reported that no sign of life had been detected in the wreckage any more and rescue works had stopped at 2am. Alas, at 5am, one survivor was found. Later at 7am, state media once again reported that they were sure no survivors remain in the wreckage, and cranes began to move the fallen carriages around, as well as topple the one standing carriage (we know what happened when they did that). Much later in the day at 17:20, another survivor was found.
The survivor found at 17:20 is a two-year-old female toddler.
Blame it all on foreign technology! Board Secretary of CSR, manufacturer of the trains, Shao Renqiang (邵仁强) has said that the CRH1B trains used in the D3115 service are in fact Regina C2008 trains designed by Bombardier Transportation for Swedish railway.
Drama at the press conference: Journalists from Wenzhou City News along with other reporters wait for hours outside a meeting room at the Wenzhou Shangri-La Hotel. When they finally had enough of waiting and pushed the door open, they found nobody in the meeting room. Apparently, officials had left via another exit, and they were left unclear whether the presser had already ended or moved to another location.
Another source claims that only FOUR journalists were originally invited to the press conference. They were either from CCTV or Xinhua News Agency.
The press conference finally takes place. Ministry of Railways spokesperson Wang Yongping (王勇平) denies claims that 43 people have died (see 6 min 30 sec). According to the information he has, only 35 have died so far. At 7 min 30 sec, a journalist asks Wang why the two-year-old female toddler (in update #9) was found so many hours after they had declared no more life was to be found in the wreckage. Wang replies, “It’s a miracle.” Journalists are horrified by his answer.
A survivor gate-crashes the press conference. He asks Ministry of Railways spokesperson Wang Yongping, “I’m standing before you today because I managed to escape from the gallows of death by climbing out from the wreckage. Earlier, you said that everything would be settled appropriately. I want to know, appropriately according to whose standards? Yours or the travellers’?” Wang stands up and bows to the man, apologising for all the inconvenience he has had to experience. As for “appropriate settlements”, Wang says he was referring to injured casualties. “If you weren’t injured or hospitalised, we will also try to meet with your requests. As for your luggage, this was a very serious accident and we ask that you please give us some time.”
First picture of the Wenzhou toddler (in update #9) out via Wenzhou Evening News. Said to have been a premature baby, Xiang Weiyi (项炜伊) was saved 26 hours after the collision. Glad to know she’s well enough to open her eyes:
Here in a picture dated July 15, Xiang Weiyi’s father, Yu An (余岸) posts a picture of the toddler experiencing her first train ride on his Sina Weibo account. Unfortunately, father and daughter took another train ride on July 23 and that’s when the deadly collision struck. The girl was found alive one day after the accident but her father remains lost.
First to break the news of the collision was not any of the traditional news outlets but a Sina Weibo user @袁小芫 who tweeted at 20:38 on Saturday: “Problem on D301 at Wenzhou. The train came to a halt and then there was a very strong collision, and then a second one! And then the power went out! I’m in the last carriage. Hope nothing goes wrong!! This is too horrific!!”
Crowdsourcing FTW: Because the Ministry of Railways is dragging its feet over publishing a list of victims, netizens have taken things into their own hands. Check out this continuously updated Google Document of with a list of victims including names, sex, age and other important data put together from a variety of sources. (h/t ChinaGeeks)
The ill-fated driver of D301 was Pan Yiheng (潘一恒), who was stabbed to death in his chest by a brake handle as he activated the emergency brakes in the final moments of his life. Pan had worked as a train driver in the last 18 years, clocking 238,262 km without accidents.