UPDATE 5: Added the latest information on the death toll to the introduction.
UPDATE 4: Added Wang Yongpin’s rebuttal to the rumors that they were burying train cars to the “Official Media” section.
UPDATE 3: Added link and information about the Google Documents spreadsheet of victims.
UPDATE 2: Added a translation of some new propaganda directives to the new section “Information Control”
Rather than continue to update yesterday’s post, which is already over 3,000 words long, we’ll be collecting new information about the Wenzhou accident here. If you haven’t already, we suggest you read that post before starting this one.
Xinhua announced this afternoon that the official death toll is now 38, rather than yesterday’s 35. The number of injured, most recently listed by Xinhua as 192, has not been updated.
Official reports this morning acknowledge, in a rather indirect way, that China’s high speed rail “still faces challenges.” They are, however, emphatic about how the government remains confident in the trains. From Xinhua:
Despite the accident, the spokesman said the ministry is still confident in China’s high-speed trains.
“China’s high-speed train is advanced and qualified. We have confidence in it,” he said.
From the Global Times:
“China has advanced high-speed railway technology. We are still confident about that,” Wang said.
The government has additionally suspended 58 train services, up from yesterday’s number which was less than 30.
In a press conference today, railway official Wang Yongpin directly addresses the rumors that train cars were being buried at the accident site:
In the video, he says that according to a “comrade” of his, the car was buried because of the muddy ground, and that burying the car and then putting dirt on top of it aided recovery efforts. He says they would not and could not figuratively “bury” this story, so they wouldn’t try. He concludes, “That is how he [the unnamed “comrade”] explained this [the cars being buried]. As to whether you believe it or not…anyway, I believe it.”
The Global Times also ran an editorial on the crash:
China’s high-speed railway system has become the newest target of public criticism, although it reportedly stands on the cusp of joining the world’s best in the field. The society harshly criticizes the railway system whenever there is an accident. The authorities’ only option is to accept such criticism.
The collision delivered a strong shock to China’s social psychology, and caused doubt toward the nation’s railway construction plans. For a long time, China has been lagging behind in transportation. Now China is rising to the top level for railways.
However, the nation lacks experience when joining these ranks, and when an accident does happen, society naturally holds many misgivings.
Railway departments have to face up to public inquiries and doubts frankly and bravely. This is a responsible attitude to take for both public security and their own credibility. Top chiefs at the Shanghai Railway Bureau were dismissed yesterday, a correct step that the ministry took to ensure accountability for the accident.
China lags behind advanced countries in overall social management. This enhances the risks that China has to face as it develops a leading railway system. Railway departments should always keep this in mind. Besides owning reliable technologies and detailed management stipulations, they should also be able to lead the world in applying these elements. This is where public worries are focused, and where railway departments may find it difficult to improve.
All those responsible for the deadly crash should be exposed and punished. Nevertheless, the accident should not serve to fully negate China’s rail accomplishments. The rapid expansion of China’s high-speed railway network has brought huge benefits to the nation’s economic growth and social progress. Reflections upon the severe accident should lead to safer, not slower, railway transportation.
It is time for China to lead the world in certain fields. Such exploration is always accompanied by risks, as made evident throughout the history of transportation. China should take warnings from previous disasters. China’s high-speed railways should be a miracle not only in their speed and scale, but also in safety and all other fields.
The deadly crash on Saturday should become a bloody lesson for the entire railway industry in China. It should become a starting point for safer railway standards. The public should continue their attention and criticism and push authorities to respond quickly and fix problems. Nevertheless, people ought to make rational judgments.
The accident should promote the nation to develop a safer and more convenient high-speed railway network, rather than pull it back to the era of sluggish rail traffic.
The tone here seems to be that China is blazing a new trail, and some bumps are inevitable along the way. Given, however, that high speed rail has existed and been running totally safely for decades in France and Japan, among other places, this argument seems unlikely to sway many people.
At the same time, the Ministry of Truth Directives Google Plus account has released more leaked propaganda directives relating to the crash, as sent to reporters and shared on Sina Weibo:
In addition to the directive we translated yesterday, here are two additional paragraphs:
To Central Media: Regarding the Wenzhou crash, the newest requirements: 1) Use the deaths and casualty numbers reported by authorities; they are correct 2) Do not report too frequently 3) Report more moving stories, such as people donating blood or taxi drivers not taking fares from victims, etc. 4) Do not investigate the cause of the accident, use the information reported by authorities 5) Do not do “re-thinking” or commentary.
Propaganda Notice: The name of the Wenzhou accident will be the “The 7.23 Wenzhou Line Railway Accident”. From now on, use the headline “Great love in the face of great tragedy” to report on this incident. Do not doubt, reveal, or make associations, and to not retweet things on your personal Weibo accounts. In [TV] programs you can provide the relevant information, but be careful of the music.
The public, however, has not been in the mood to forgive anyone. A user-created poll on Weibo asking people their opinion of the way the accident has been handled has already accrued over
25,000 55,000 responses, and they are not good:
Are you satisfied with the way the Chinese government has handled the Wenzhou accident?
- Very dissastisfied, [the government has] simply shown disrespect for human life. – 93%,
- Dissatisfied, the emergency response has been poor. – 4%,
- Decent, it’s been about average, they saved a few people – 1%,
- Satisfied, but I’m just satisfied with the way our countrymen saved themselves [i.e., satisfied with the people’s response but not the government’s] – 2%,
- Satisfied, the government is doing a good job. – 1%,
Another poll on Weibo asked people whether they felt the disaster was “natural” [in this case, they just mean unavoidable] or man-made. 98% — nearly 18,000 voters so far — chose “man-made.”
Part of the reason people are so dissatisfied is videos like this (h/t to Shanghaiist). The government stated yesterday morning that all bodies and passengers had been recovered from the wreckage, but this video clearly shows
a body falling out of a train car at around 0:09 as they’re moving it a body being removed from the wreckage. There may or may not also be something, perhaps a body, falling out of the car as it’s topped, but on review it’s not clear what that is. (WARNING: DISTURBING)
Additionally, there were reports yesterday that a surviving four-year-old was pulled out of the wreckage around 4:00 PM, well after the government had said that all survivors had been accounted for (state media reported on Sunday at 4 A.M. and then again at 7 A.M. that all survivors had been found). UPDATE: Here is a link to a story about this from the AP. The Xinhua report on this same story cites the girl’s age as 2 years 8 months, though. For the moment it’s unclear who is right or which system of measuring age they’re using ((The Chinese traditional way of counting one’s age is not as simple as the way age is counted in the West, and it’s possible the AP and Xinhua are working with different numbers because of that.))
The train crash remains the hottest topic on Weibo, with a general discussion of the crash ranking first and another topic dedicated to helping people find their loved ones in second.
Suspicions also remain that the death toll is higher than announced, and people are sharing images like this one, of a Japanese news site that reports 43 people were killed:
Some tech-saavy netizens are also using Google Documents (blocked in China) to try to put together a list of the victims that includes name, sex, age, other info, and links to the relevant media reports. You can see the document here; it is being continuously updated. As of now, they have information on 21 of the victims.
We’ll try to keep this post updated as new information emerges.