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China blames speeding for train crash that kill 70 people
China Train Crash T 5592041
Rescuers work at the site of a train collision in Zibo in east China's Shandong province Monday April 28, 2008. A high-speed passenger train jumped its tracks and slammed into another train in eastern China on Monday, killing at least 70 people and injuring more than 400 in China's worst train accident in a decade. - photo by Associated Press
    ZIBO, China — China could identify less than half the 70 people killed in its deadliest train accident in a decade but had already cleared the mangled cars and laid new track Tuesday, restoring service a day after the derailment.
    Chinese state media showed hundreds of orange-jacketed workers mobilized at the crash site, clearing and fixing the fractured line linking Beijing to the seaside city of Qingdao — site of the sailing competition during the upcoming Olympics.
    The official Xinhua News Agency cited an investigative panel set up by the State Council, China’s Cabinet, as saying that speeding was to blame for Monday’s crash.
    Officials bracing for a May Day surge in rail traffic and keen to show their crisis management skills ahead of the Summer Games appeared firmly in command. They rapidly cleared away the wreckage and sacked a third railway official — while trumpeting their success in caring for 416 injured people.
    A set of photos put out by Xinhua showed a cheerful French survivor, Pascal Boisson, receiving fresh flowers and being fed with chopsticks by a beaming nurse as he reclined in his hospital bed.
    The Zibo Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital ‘‘allocated special staff members to take care of him and cook for him Chinese dishes he likes,’’ the caption said.
    Yet scant information was available about the dozens of dead. Xinhua reported that 26 had been identified by late Tuesday but gave no details.
    To maintain its tight control over media coverage of the accident, authorities repeatedly blocked foreign journalists from speaking to survivors.
    The crash occurred as a Qingdao-bound train sped toward Zibo in eastern China’s Shandong province. Moving at 81 mph before the accident — well over the section’s speed limit of 50 mph — the train jumped its tracks and collided with an oncoming train on another track, Xinhua said, citing the government’s investigation panel.
    Nine carriages from the first train tumbled into a dirt ditch next to a farm field in Zibo. The second train stayed upright but was knocked askew on the tracks.
    By Tuesday morning, little more than 24 hours after the deadly collision, a crane lifted the last remaining carriage at the scene onto a flatbed truck while trains chugged by slowly on the newly repaired track.
    Those injured in the crash were at hospitals throughout the region. They included 70 people in critical condition as well as four French nationals — Boisson, his two children and his girlfriend — who were being flown to Beijing on a flight arranged by the French Embassy, Xinhua reported.
    Local officials in Zibo held a news conference Tuesday where they gave a glowing evaluation of the emergency response, praising rescuers who rushed to the accident site and a doctor who worked more than 30 hours without rest.
    The central and provincial governments ‘‘do not need to worry and the victims, their families and people from all walks of life are satisfied,’’ said Liu Xinsheng, deputy secretary-general of the Zibo city government.
    Liu and other officials refused to take questions, and did not provide any new information on the cause of the crash.
    One survivor said the crash was over in one or two minutes, and that she was forced to crawl out of a window of her sleeper compartment.
    ‘‘People who were sleeping, they got crushed to death and wouldn’t even know it,’’ said the middle-aged woman at Zibo Central Hospital, who had layers of gauze wrapped around her curly permed hair. She refused to give her name because she said her relatives didn’t know she had been hurt.
    Other independent accounts of the crash were difficult to obtain. Police officers and uniformed security were posted outside some hospital rooms and wards, preventing reporters from entering. Several survivors seemed afraid to talk, saying they would not agree to interviews unless doctors approved.
    Two doctors at the Zibo No. 1 Hospital — including one puffing on a cigarette at the nurse’s station — said a reporter would have to get permission from a hospital director to speak with any patient. They added that the director was in a meeting and unreachable.
    Blocking foreign journalists is standard practice for Chinese officials, who fear outside reports will not jibe with the government’s message.
    Xinhua announced late Tuesday that a deputy director of the railway bureau in Jinan, the provincial capital and the nearest major city, had been dismissed. Guo Jiguang’s firing follows the dismissals of the bureau’s director and Communist Party secretary. All three could face investigations by the Ministry of Railways.
    Trains are the most popular way to travel in China, and the overloaded rail network carried 1.36 billion passengers last year. Accidents are rare, and the government is trying to extend and upgrade the state-run network and introduce more high-speed trains.
    Monday’s accident was the worst train crash in China since 1997, when a collision killed 126 people.

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