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Chinese Authorities Link Train Crash to Olympic Construction


Chinese officials say railway construction ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics played a role in a deadly train crash this week in eastern China that killed 71 people and injured more than 400.

Investigators say one of the trains was traveling more than 131 kilometers-per-hour when it derailed near the city of Zibo in Shandong province and rammed into another train.

Zibo city spokesman Li Chenggang told reporters Wednesday that the railway line in the area is being upgraded ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games.

He said a new line will make the traffic between Jinan and the coastal city of Qingdao much faster. Qingdao is the site of the sailing competition for the Summer Games.

Government investigators tell Chinese state media that train operators were told to slow down at the section of the track under construction before the accident took place.

The official Xinhua news agency says most people injured in the accident are still hospitalized. A Zibo health official tells Xinhua that 60 people remain in critical condition.

Authorities have dismissed three senior railway officials in Shandong province in connection with the crash, the worst in China in more than a decade. It is not clear whether either of the train drivers survived the crash.

A 1997 rail collision in Hunan province killed well over 100 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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