Premier Wen vows to punish those responsible for train crash six days after tragedy

08:41, July 29, 2011      

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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (C) meets the press at the site of the fatal train crash in Wenzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, July 28, 2011. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

Premier Wen Jiabao Thursday vowed to "severely punish" those who are responsible for Saturday's fatal train collision and said "safety is a top priority" for the country's high-speed railways.

"Our investigation must be responsible to the people," Wen promised in front of more than 180 domestic and foreign journalists. He stood under a railway viaduct where one high-speed train rear-ended another near the city of Wenzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province six days ago, killing 39 people and injuring 192 others.

Before meeting the press, Wen, dressed in a white shirt and black trousers, laid a large bouquet of flowers on the ground near the bridge and took three deep bows to mourn the victims.

Crash ruins have already been cleared away from the scene where six carriages derailed and four of them fell about 20 to 30 meters from the viaduct, but debris can still be found in some places.

The premier said he should have visited the crash scene earlier, but his health problems had delayed his visit.

PUNISHMENTS TO BE SEVERE

"We will severely punish those who are responsible for the accident, as well as those who hold responsibilities of leadership, in accordance with the country's laws," Wen said during the press conference.

"Punishments will be severe and in line with the law if corruption is found to be behind this incident," he told the press.

A probe into the tragedy will be conducted, Wen said. The probe will be thorough, "no matter if it was a mechanical fault, a management problem, or a manufacturing problem," he said, adding that conducting a complete investigation is the only way in which the victims will be able to rest in peace.

He promised the probe will offer results that will "stand the test of history."

The State Council, or China's cabinet, has set up an independent investigatory panel that includes authorities from the country's work safety, supervision and judiciary departments, Wen said.

The probe's final results will be released in September.

Wen said the investigation will be open, transparent and under public supervision, adding that investigators will "pay careful attention to public opinion and reach a responsible result."

He urged the Ministry of Railways to give an "honest answer" to the people regarding its hasty way to handle the aftermath of the crash, which has triggered mounting questions.

"I called the minister of railways soon after the crash happened, and what I said to him were just two words: 'save people.' He can prove this," Wen said, while Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu stood solemnly behind him with several other senior officials.

Wen said that the top principle in handling accidents is to "save victims by all means."

"The ministry should give an honest answer to the people as to whether it has conformed with this principle in dealing with the collision," he said.

SAFETY TOP PRIORITY

The government's top priority is to protect people's lives, said Wen. "The country's development is for the people, so the first and foremost priority is people's lives," he said.

"High-speed railway development should integrate speed, quality, efficiency and safety, and safety should be put in the first place," said Wen.

"Without safety, high-speed trains will lose their credibility," Wen said, adding that China's high-speed trains will obtain global trust only when they are truly safe.

China's high-speed railways have seen significant progress in recent years, he said, "but the deadly accident has taught us a lesson."

An initial investigation into the accident indicates that design flaws in railway signal equipment led to the collision, according to the Shanghai Railway Bureau.

"Relevant departments will draw lessons from the accident," Wen said, urging them to improve their management techniques and make breakthroughs in core technologies in order to ensure safety.

Scientific planning, reasonable designing and orderly development are the main principles for the country's future railway construction, he said.

China's 12th Five-year Plan (2011-2015) for the country's development states that future railway construction should focus on structural adjustments and transforming its own development pattern.

The layout and design for China's railways should take the country's railway network as a whole into consideration, and efforts should also be made to streamline railways, highways and other transportation channels, Wen said.

A commentary published on Thursday in the People's Daily, a flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said that the country should say no to a "blood-smeared GDP."

It said that the tragic accident has sent a notice to the nation that safe production "never allows for a 'sit back and relax' mentality."

"Safe production cannot be over-emphasized," the article said.

CONDOLENCES GIVEN

Before meeting the press, Wen visited the No. 2 People's Hospital of Wenzhou, where some injured passengers are receiving treatment, including a toddler girl who was orphaned and seriously injured in the accident.

In another meeting, the premier offered his condolences and bowed to relatives of the deceased.

He listened to the opinions of more than 10 relatives of the victims and answered their questions. He said that an independent investigatory panel was set up to probe the accident and would give the public a clear explanation.

Wen asked relevant departments to carefully attend to public opinion, including doubts, and properly handle issues that people are concerned about to make sure that "the victims will rest in peace."

He told the relatives of the dead that victims' personal belongings left in the crashed carriages would be properly kept, and the government must try to help relatives to get those belongings, which "shows respect for the dead and condolences to their family."

Wen pledged to provide the public with timely and accurate information regarding the train collision.

Only by openly disclosing the truth can the aftermath of the accident be handled properly, said Wen, who also promised "reasonable" compensation for the families of the deceased.

"The life is priceless. I understand what the victims' family members demand is justice," he said.

Besides the compensation, families of the victims should be supported by society if they have life difficulties in the future, and schooling of the children and life of the elderly family members should be guaranteed, Wen said.

"We should let the deceased rest in peace and bring comfort to those who have lost their loved ones in the tragedy," he added.

The Ministry of Railways promised on Wednesday to pay the families of the deceased 500,000 yuan (77,640 U.S. dollars) each in compensation.

Wen also expressed his gratitude to local residents who have volunteered to join rescue efforts. Many local residents in Wenzhou have set up rescue teams and donated blood, he said, adding that they have also made "patient and meticulous efforts" to comfort the families of the deceased and the injured. Enditem

Source: Xinhua

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