Tragedies Mar Holiday

Two deadly accidents during national celebrations bring China's safety record into question.

Workers clear the wreckage after a fatal high-speed rail crash in Shuangyu town in China's eastern Zhejiang province, July 24, 2011.

Separate accidents have left 21 people dead and 30 injured as millions of Chinese take to the country's transport network and shopping malls for the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day celebrations.

Nine people died and 27 were injured in the eastern province of Jiangsu when a long-distance bus service from Nanjing to Ma'anshan plowed into a cement truck on the Ningwu national highway on Sunday, according to local police.

"Yes, that's right," said an officer who answered the phone at the Ma'anshan municipal police department on Monday when asked about local media reports that many of the passengers were making their way home for the holidays.

But he declined to comment further. "I can't really say," he said, when asked to confirm the number of casualties.

China’s central government has suspended new rail projects and ordered existing trains to limit their top speeds in the aftermath of a deadly collision of two bullet trains in the southeastern city of Wenzhou in July.

The crash prompted widespread public anger among the families of crash victims and netizens following the disaster online, with many blaming official corruption and negligence for the country's safety record.

The state-run Nanjing Morning News reported horrific scenes at the site of Sunday's bus crash, with many people still trapped in the wreckage, and made unrecognizable by their injuries.

The paper quoted a migrant worker surnamed Zhang as saying that she was asleep when the crash came.

"When Ms. Zhang awoke, a colleague traveling in the seat next to her was already dead," the paper reported.

Victims treated

A healthcare worker who answered the phone at the Ma'anshan Municipal People's Hospital confirmed it had received at least four casualties from the crash, and that at least one was in intensive care.

"There is one young lad whose injuries are pretty bad," the healthcare worker said. "The rest of them are staying in the regular section of the hospital."

"The papers said nine people had died. That is probably correct, but I don't have all the details," the employee said.

"They had a lot of them over at the Ma'anshan Center Hospital, because they were closer to the scene of the crash."

An employee who answered the phone at the Ma'anshan Center Hospital confirmed the reports.

"Altogether we have seen 12 patients, and six of them had injuries bad enough for intensive care," he said. "The rest of them are in the regular wards under observation."

He said two of the patients at his hospital had died, but had no details of the overall casualty figure.

Building collapse

The same morning, in the northern province of Shaanxi, two people died and another was injured after a building collapsed at the Xian Huaqiao Plaza shopping mall.

Local reports said nine people were buried under rubble, and that a 14-year-old girl had escaped with injuries. The remaining six people were rescued unharmed.

A healthcare worker who answered the phone at the Xian No. 4 Hospital confirmed the reports.

"Two died yesterday ... then another was admitted to hospital," the healthcare worker said. "The patients don't want to give any interviews, though."

"The injured patient is fairly stable at the moment."

The Xian building collapse comes days after a scaffolding collapse in the same city killed 10 construction workers and injured at least 10 others, local media reported.

Mid-Autumn Festival, which for many people taking leave from work usually runs into the Oct. 1 National Day holiday, starts on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, when the moon appears at its roundest and largest.

This year's Mid-Autumn Festival falls on Monday, and is marked by moon-gazing, the giving and eating of mooncake pastries and lantern-lit celebrations.

The National Day holiday marks the founding of the People's Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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