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China Horrified by High-Speed Train Accident

  • Sarah Williams

A high speed bullet train runs past a railway bridge as workers use cranes to lift a wrecked carriage onto a truck after two trains crashed and derailed in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, July 26, 2011.

A high speed bullet train runs past a railway bridge as workers use cranes to lift a wrecked carriage onto a truck after two trains crashed and derailed in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, July 26, 2011.

The Chinese government has ordered an investigation into the train crash that killed at least 39 people Saturday.

The accident took place on a high-speed rail line in eastern China between the cities of Hangzhou and Wenzhou, and has sparked public outrage. VOA's Sarah Williams spoke with correspondent William Ide, who is traveling in Beijing.

Tell us exactly what happened on Saturday.

"So far all we know is that one of the trains had stalled after being struck by lightning, and then another train rammed into it. But in between, there hasn't been a lot of indications of what else might have happened and this in turn has churned up a whole bunch of response not only online from netizens but also in the state media from reporters and bloggers all asking one of the big questions that how is it that this one train had stalled and yet the other train was not contacted before it rammed into that train. So, still a lot of questions there and of course, that's why they've begun this review."

Listen to the entire interview with Bill Ide in Beijing

It's interesting that you say there has been critical comment even from the state media. That suggests, you know, there is a lot of concern about this incident.

"As someone who watches China, and who has been watching China for a long time, I've been really surprised at the amount and outpouring of criticism that there's been. And of course in the state media, it's more along the lines of calling for a more thorough investigation but still nonetheless being very outspoken. Online, though, there's a lot of criticism, a lot of skepticism, cynicism, there were railway ministry officials have said repeatedly they were sorry about what has happened and this has been basically mocked online. I saw this one poll this morning that was saying, 'Do you agree that they're really sorry, does this make a difference?' And of course a lot of people online don't really think it gets to the bottom of it, what they really want to know is why these problems happen.

People stand by candles lit in memory of those who were killed in the train accident in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province July 25, 2011 (Reuters).

These high speed trains have been a great source of pride, previously, for the country. Now, the public must view them somewhat differently.

"Yeah, and again there was a poll on that too. Not necessarily on taking high speed rail, but just taking trains, 'Are you going to take a train,' the poll asked. Obviously, people have not entirely stopped taking trains because of the incident, but it has raised questions in the minds of people who need to get from one place to another. And it really has punctured a hole, I think, in the pride of this massive effort that now, some believe may have taken place too fast and because of that fact, there were safety issues that have arisen in the process.

Bill, there's been a lot of publicity about a two-year-old girl, who was badly injured in the crash, and she's received a lot of publicity. What is known about her situation?

"Right now, we know she's in stable condition. But, on the one hand, while I was earlier saying that there's a lot of criticism out there, there's been a tremendous outpouring of concern for fellow human beings in the wake of this incident. There were villagers that rushed to the scene and helped authorities to rescue those who had been injured. And the case of Xiang Weiyi, this young girl has also captured the heart of a nation, really, and on television here, they've gone and found her parents, who've both passed away, they've found their Twitter-like blog, and postings that they've put up, even up to several hours before this incident occurred. And it's a really touching story, and they're people who've put postings up in return, wishing her well and to go on and have a happy life."

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