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China train disaster kills 19

At least 19 people have been killed and another 71 injured when a train derailed in a mountainous area of east China after a landslide damaged the tracks, the official Xinhua news agency reported.


Police warned the toll could rise as rescuers were still trying to cut into the twisted wreckage of carriages after some of them overturned in the accident in Jiangxi province, it said.

The train, heading from Shanghai for the tourist city of Guilin in southern China, derailed at around 2:00 am (1800 GMT Saturday) in Dongxiang county in Jiangxi, Xinhua said, citing a railways ministry statement.

The locomotive and several of the train’s 17 carriages derailed and some were overturned, Xinhua said, quoting its reporters at the scene.

The news agency said officials did not know how many passengers were on board at the time of the derailment, but added that more than 280 passengers were evacuated from the train and another 53 were rescued from the wreckage.

But more dead were expected as rescuers were still trying to get into a carriage that had been crushed.

Xinhua, quoting rescue headquarters, said 11 of the injured were seriously hurt.

State television footage showed rescuers cutting into the sides of carriages, some of which were overturned or twisted on a steep hillside.

“Each carriage had 118 seats. It is not yet immediately known how many passengers were aboard,” Xinhua quoted a railway police officer surnamed Luo, as saying.

“We are afraid the casualties could soon rise, as four of the derailed train cars were severely damaged,” he said.

The agency quoted a survivor of the accident saying his carriage was less than half full.

Minister of Railways Liu Zhijun has ordered an investigation into the cause of the accident.

Much of Jiangxi has been hit by heavy rains that have pounded wide areas of southern and eastern China in recent days, destroyed farms, and flooding low-lying towns and villages, killing scores of people, according to earlier reports.

A spokesman for rescue headquarters said 8,000 cubic metres of mud and rocks from the landslide had to be removed from the tracks after the accident.

The derailment caused authorities to halt rail traffic on a line stretching from Shanghai on the eastern seaboard all the way to Kunming, capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, which borders Vietnam.

Some traffic was expected to resume Sunday evening, Xinhua said.

President Hu Jintao issued a statement urging railway authorities to reopen the lines as soon as possible, Xinhua reported.

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