China Train Crash Death Toll Rises to 71

By: Anita Chang
By: Anita Chang

ZIBO, China (AP) -- The death toll from China's worst rail accident in a decade rose Wednesday to 71, with more than 400 injured passengers still hospitalized following the pre-dawn collision between two trains, state media said.

Sixty of those injured in Monday's crash were in critical condition, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said 385 passengers were being treated in hospitals near the crash site at Zibo city in eastern China's Shandong province. Another 18 were sent to hospitals in the provincial capital of Jinan and to Beijing.

Four French nationals were flown to Beijing for treatment of bone fractures.

Officials have said speeding was to blame for the collision. Three railway officials already have been fired.

The accident happened as a passenger train from Beijing to the coastal city of Qingdao was traveling at 81 miles per hour - well over the track section's speed limit of 50 mph, Xinhua reported, citing an investigative panel.

The train jumped its tracks and collided with an oncoming passenger train on another track. Nine carriages from the first train tumbled into a dirt ditch.

The second train stayed upright but was knocked askew on the tracks.

Train service has already been restored after hundreds of workers repaired the track and used a huge crane to lift damaged carriages out of the way.

The accident happened just before the May Day long weekend holiday, when millions of Chinese travel by train.

Xinhua announced late Tuesday that a deputy director of the railway bureau in Jinan, Guo Jiguang, had been fired. Earlier, the bureau's director and a Communist Party secretary were dismissed. All three could face investigation by the Ministry of Railways.

State media have not said whether the drivers of the trains survived or if they were being held as part of the investigation.

The accident was the worst train crash in China since 1997, when another collision killed 126 people.

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