07/26/2011, 00.00
CHINA
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Authorities accused of a destroying the evidence in the Wenzhou train disaster

Charges fly around the internet after the authorities are quick to clean up the scene of the accident. So far, they have not yet explained why safety procedures failed. Victims’ relatives protest, angry they do not have any answers yet.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – About a hundred relatives of people who died in the Wenzhou rail disaster blocked the road in front of the Wenzhou government headquarters last night. They were angry at the authorities’ failure to provide an official explanation of the accident.

Public opinion has turned against the authorities, accusing them of hiding the truth and stifling the media on what actually happened when two high-speed trains collided, killing 38 people and injuring another 192. Such a tragedy could have major repercussions for China’s much-vaunted high-speed rail system.

The victims’ families, but also the country as a whole, want to know what happened. For many, there are serious discrepancies in the official account of events.

Online, many note that the authorities were quick to remove the carriages and reopen the track, a job done in less than 36 hours, wondering whether they also wanted to remove embarrassing evidence.

The Transport Ministry has not yet issued an official list of victims, even though most of their names are already know and posted online.

Various sources are reporting that the authorities have issued a number of directives to ensure that media do not send reporters to the scene of the accident and that they underplay the incident rather than look for its causes.

According to a poll on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, for 98 per cent of 62,926 people who voted the train was buried in order to destroy the evidence.

Many others note that just a few months ago then Railways Minister Liu Zhijun, one of the project's keenest champions, was sacked for "serious disciplinary violations", a phrase usually indicating corruption allegations. The breakneck pace of the massive project had already raised safety concerns.

The accident saw one train ram into the back of another that had stalled after being hit by lightning, causing six carriages to derail and four to fall about 20 to 30 metres from a viaduct.

A power failure had knocked out an electronic safety system that should have alerted the second train to the problem. Many now wonder why there was no backup system.

Railway Minister Sheng Guangzu said that new safety procedures have been adopted and that the causes of the disaster would be investigated. Still, he could not explain why the second train was not warned in time or why the government sacked three senior railway officials right after the tragedy.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars to build a much-vaunted high-speed rail network. In June, it inaugurated the 300 km/h train that connects Shanghai to Beijing after the line was built at a cost of 215 billion yuan (US$ 33 billion).
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