Family strikes 500,000 yuan compensation deal
The first compensation deal has been struck between authorities and relatives of victims of Saturday's fatal high-speed train crash amid growing tensions over the official handling of disaster and its aftermath.
The accident, between two trains just outside Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, claimed at least 39 lives and injured a further 178 people and has put the safety of the fast developing national high-speed network under intense scrutiny.
On Monday the railways ministry announced it would hold a two-month nationwide safety check in response to the crash, calling on all local railway authorities to 'seriously absorb lessons from the accident'.
Despite the widespread concerns, testing began on the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen high-speed link yesterday, a leg which is planned to eventually connect to Hong Kong.
In Wenzhou, the family of victim Lin Yan signed a contract yesterday morning worth 500,000 yuan (HK$604,725), Xinhua reported. The figure included a 'base' compensation of 172,000 yuan, an insurance payment of 200,000 yuan, the family's travelling and funeral costs, plus a 'bonus' worth 'several tens of thousands of yuan' for the early conclusion of negotiations.
News of that last element, along with the level of the base figure, provoked an angry reaction from other grieving relatives. 'Why are the government rewarding people for coming to a quick agreement - is this a business deal in their eyes?' demanded one furious relative at the Wenzhou city mortuary yesterday.
'We aren't interested in talking about money at the moment - that is the last thing on our minds. Today we simply want to make sure our relatives are made up and redressed as well as we can for the funeral. We want to put them to rest with dignity.
'The next step is apportioning responsibility. A clear explanation from the Ministry of Railways as to exactly how this tragedy happened and what happened to every single person on board the two trains.'
A number of the families rallied round widower Yang Feng, who instigated a protest outside the city's government headquarters on Monday night demanding that top railways officials address relatives' concerns in person. Yang said the bodies of his pregnant wife, sister-in-law, nephew and mother-in-law were only discovered in the wreckage more than 24 hours after the crash, after he begged rescuers to resume searching. 'I still have not had any response from the authorities.'
The developments came as Wenzhou police issued the first official incomplete list of the victims' identities. The list, which included the name, sex and home region of 28 of the 39 confirmed dead, followed unofficial but complete lists circulating on the internet since Monday.
Lin Yan, the victim whose relatives had reportedly accepted compensation, was not one of the 28 names on the official list.
There were two foreigners included in the official list: an Italian female identified as Liguori Assunta, and a male Chinese-born American citizen, Cao Erxing. It was reported on Monday that the US embassy had confirmed two Americans were among the dead. Unofficial name lists include Cao's wife, Chen Zengrong.
Data released by Wenzhou authorities yesterday also revised downwards the number of people injured in the crash by stating that the earlier figure of 192 included 14 people who died on their way to hospital.
Family members believe the government should issue the full passenger manifest of the two trains.
Carriage 16 of the stationary train - where Yang's family was found - bore the brunt of the impact and was virtually flattened.
'We have heard from people who escaped there were 50 or 60 people in that carriage when the crash happened. What happened to them?' demanded one relative from Fuzhou.
The investigators' apparent slack-handed treatment of the wreckage - some of it having been bulldozed into the ground - also sparked allegations of evidence being deliberately destroyed.
The number of passengers carried on both the D301, travelling between Beijing and Fuzhou, and the D3115 Hangzhou-to-Fuzhou train