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At Least 58 Killed, More Than 90 Hurt as One Train Rams Another in China

April 30, 1997| From Times Wire Services

BEIJING — A crowded passenger train plowed into a train stopped in a station in central China on Tuesday, tossing 13 cars off the tracks, killing at least 58 people and injuring more than 90.

The crash took place in Hunan province, about 840 miles south of Beijing, on the Beijing-Guangzhou line, one of China's most important north-south transport arteries.

More than 1,100 police and medical personnel rushed to Rongjiawan Station, the official New China News Agency said.

The news agency initially said that 90 people had died and 300 had been injured. It later updated the toll to 58 dead and more than 90 injured, without giving further details. Other reports quoted local officials as saying the number of fatalities had risen to 67.

Officials were reluctant to give details of the crash, which occurred less than a month after China upgraded the speed of its trains.

China's trains accelerated on April 1, with those on the Beijing-Guangzhou line speeding up to 84 mph--the fastest rate in China--from a previous 58 1/2 mph, officials have said.

Rescue work continued this morning, one local government official who gave only his surname, Liang, said by telephone. Witnesses said one train struck the rear of the other, the news agency said.

Officials said the cause of the crash was under investigation but that preliminary reports showed failure to switch the tracks for the moving train was to blame. It was not yet known if human error was involved, they said.

Traffic on the main Beijing-Guangzhou line was unaffected because trains had been switched to the three other tracks, local officials said.

China's railways handled 942 million passengers last year and remain the nation's most popular method of transport.

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