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Bullet train crashes in China; at least 35 killed

Lightning strikes a high-speed train, which loses power and is rear-ended by another train on an elevated track in Wenzhou. The safety of the national network has been called into question after a corruption scandal.

July 24, 2011|By David Pierson, Los Angeles Times
  • Rescue workers give aid at the site where two carriages from a bullet train derailed and fell off a bridge in Wenzhou in eastern China on Saturday. At least 11 people were killed and 89 others were injured.
Rescue workers give aid at the site where two carriages from a bullet train… (Reuters )

Reporting from Beijing — At least 35 people were killed and scores were injured Saturday when a bullet train in eastern China lost power after being struck by lightning and was rear-ended by another train, state news media reported.

The crash sent two passenger cars careening off an elevated track in Wenzhou, a city in Zhejiang province.

State television showed video of rescue workers in a steady downpour pulling bloodied passengers out of a car standing on its end and leaning against a bridge.

Six cars were derailed in the two trains, one of which originated in Beijing and the other in Hangzhou, state media reported.

The collision is the first major incident in China's massive high-speed rail network, set to reach 10,000 miles by 2020.

The newest line in that network, a Beijing-Shanghai corridor, has been beset by electrical glitches in recent weeks because of poor weather, officials said.

The safety of the national network was also called into question when the head of the railway ministry was removed in February because of a corruption scandal believed to have led to shoddy construction.

The ministry has since decreased top speeds on the system as a precautionary measure.

It was unclear how fast the trains in Wenzhou were traveling before they crashed.

Known as dongche, the trains were part of China's first generation of high-speed rail. Top speeds reach 155 mph. By comparison, the speed on the Beijing-Shanghai line is 186 mph.

david.pierson@latimes.com

Jonathan Kaiman in The Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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