China launches 2-month safety campaign after deadly train crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2011 10:08 PM

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's rail minister has ordered a two-month safety check on railway operations and apologized for Saturday's deadly train crash that killed 39 people, state media reported on Tuesday.

It was the latest effort to assuage public anger after Internet users flooded websites and microblogs with comments following the crash in eastern China's Zhejiang province, the country's deadliest rail accident since 2008.

Even before the investigation into the cause of the crash was complete, Beijing on Sunday sacked three middle-level railway officials.

Subsequent efforts by the propaganda department to bar Chinese media from questioning official accounts of the accident fueled even more anger and suspicion.

The People's Daily quoted Sheng Guangzu, Minister of Railways, as saying a range of railway officials were directed to work on front-line operations during the next two months and to learn from the accident.

He said the safety campaign will extend through the end of September and will focus on high-speed rail and passenger trains, such as implementing maintenance standards and reinforcing checks on power connections to pre-empt outages.

Special attention would also go to prevent accidents caused by flooding and inclement weather, the minister said.

The ministry is still investigating the cause of the accident. However, state media has said a bullet train hit another express that lost power following a lightning strike, adding that the power failure knocked out an electronic safety system designed to alert conductors about stalled locomotives on the line.

The accident has raised concerns about the safety of the country's high-profile and fast-growing rail network and threatens to undermine its plans to export high-speed train technology.

(Reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ken Wills and Jonathan Thatcher)