Shanghai Subway Crash Enrages Chinese ‘Netizens’

Sep 27, 2011 9:58am
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                                                                                                             Fan Jun/Xinhua/AP Photo

Chinese social media erupted with popular rage today after more than 260 people were injured when two subway trains crashed in Shanghai. About 20 people are in serious condition but there are no reported casualties at this time.

Because Twitter is blocked in Mainland China, many people have turned to its Chinese counterpart, Sina Weibo, to vent their anger.

“Last time one train on Line 2 went into the wrong direction,” a Sina Weibo user named “China” wrote. ”They said they were fine-tuning it, and there would be no crashes. How could they explain it now?”

“Accidents one after another, what happened to China!” Sina Weibo user “Jiaboshi” wrote.

“Faulty products are threatening our lives!” “Kanlai9851″ wrote.

The users’ thinly veiled subtext referred to the deadly Wenzhou high-speed train crash in July that killed 40 passengers and injured 192. The Wenzhou crash is seen as somewhat of a watershed moment for the Chinese micro-blogging social network when it, despite being heavily monitored and at times even censored, exploded with outrage.

Even though the latest incident is less deadly than the Wenzhou crash, the comparisons might not be that off base. According to reports on the website of the influential and independent Caixin Magazine, the faulty signal system in both this latest Shanghai accident and the Wenzhou crash was made by CASCO Signal Ltd., a Chinese joint venture with the French firm Alstom. The company has also provided the signal systems in five other Chinese cities: Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Changchun, Tianjin and Dalian.

At 2:10 p.m. today in China, Shanghai Metro’s Line 10 experienced a signal failure near the busy Xintiandi Station, a stop away from the eventual collision. The trains on Line 10 then reportedly slowed their speeds and switched over to manual control. At 2:51 p.m., the rear-end collision took place in the tunnels between the Yuyuan Station to Laoximen Station.

A passenger in the rear train, interviewed by Shanghai Media Group Television, said that after the signal failure, his train sat idle for almost 40 minutes. “Then the crash happened,” he told the television station. “I called 1-1-0 [Chinese equivalent of 9-1-1] after the hit, and nobody came. Only after half an hour, we finally saw one guy arrive.”

The accident had the potential to be a lot worse; the train that rear-ended the stationary train in front was reportedly only traveling at less than 6 mph.

Sina Weibo allowed passengers such as Ji Fashi to give play-by-play, real-time accounts of today’s accident. By late-afternoon, his photo of bloodied passengers was reposted more than 45,000 times.

Apparently acknowledging the influence and popularity of the micro-blogging site, Shanghai Metro even posted an official apology on its account:

“Operations on Line 10 are being gradually resumed and the cause of the accident is being investigated,” it said. “No matter what the results are, we deeply regret the hurt and inconvenience we have caused everyone. We were touched by the scenes of passengers helping each other after the accident, and we take our hats off to the fire department and health department workers on the front line. We were in the wrong. Please believe us — we will improve!”

The official apology was deleted less than 20 minutes later.

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