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News Analysis: Subway collision in S.Korea reminiscent of ferry disaster

English.news.cn   2014-05-03 18:06:28

Mechanics work to restore the subway operation at Sangwangshimri Station in Seoul, South Korea, May 2, 2014. (Xinhua/Peng Qian)

by Yoo Seungki

SEOUL, May 3 (Xinhua) -- The subway collision in South Korea, where an incoming train crashed into the back of another that had stopped, was reminiscent of the ferry sinking disaster that occurred just over two weeks ago as human errors were the main cause of the two accidents.

One train pulling into the Sangwangshimri station in the east of Seoul rear-ended another train at 3:30 p.m. local time Friday, leaving 249 people injured. Most of them sustained minor injuries such as bruises and abrasions, but three had surgeries for a fracture and two were waiting for surgery. No fatalities were reported.

The two trains of the Line No. 2 collided as traffic signs did not work and caused a failure in automatic train stop (ATS), the Seoul Metro, which operates four subway lines including the second one, said in a statement Saturday.

The ATS, installed in all Seoul subways, is designed to keep the distance between trains at least 200 meters apart. When a train nears 200 meters of another, the train automatically stops.

The subway operator said the traffic sign was blue at that time and caused the ATS not to work. In normal times, the signal should have been red to tell the driver to stop the train or the ATS to work.

The faulty devices will be attributable to the poor maintenance or the unskilled handling, indicating human errors caused the accident. The subway operator said the signal failure came three days after the traffic data revision.

The moving train, which was running at the speed of 68 km per hour, made an emergency stop, but it rammed into the back of the other train at the speed of 15 km per hour as the braking distance was too short.

The rear train's driver could have had troubles in detecting the stationary train soon enough to prevent the crash as the curved tunnel into the station is around 500 meters long, a Seoul Metro official told Xinhua. The driver can notice the other train just 120 meters ahead of it. More attention should have been paid in such tracks.

The signal failure, a minor mechanical problem, proved this time to become a crucial factor that causes a deadly accident. In 2003, an arson attack on a subway station in the southeastern city of Daegu killed 192 people. No fire broke out in the Seoul subway accident, but if the train moved faster than it was, the incident could have become a catastrophic tragedy.

The ferry sinking disaster, which left 302 people dead or missing, also stemmed from human errors. The 6,825-ton passenger ship Sewol, which capsized and sank in waters off the southwestern coast on April 16, was overloaded and modified illegally, but set sail all the same despite bad weather.

The ship's captain and some sailors, who have been arrested for accidental homicide, fled the sinking vessel after ordering passengers to stay in place, triggering widespread public anger against them.

Reminiscent of the ferry sailors, passengers in the collided trains ignored the announcement to stay put and leapt from the trains to walk along the track to the station.

The Seoul Metro official said the order was issued briefly to prevent passengers from being run over by a train coming from the opposite side. After notifying the train on the opposite side of the accident, the order was lifted, said the official.

According to local media reports, passengers said the announcement didn't mention the train collision and some people even failed to hear such announcements to flee from the train as seen in testimonies of the ferry disaster survivors.

The official said over phone that the collision destroyed the broadcasting connectivity, noting that comments on the collision might have worsen the chaos within the train.

The Seoul metropolitan government planned to conduct special safety checks into all Seoul subways for 90 days to prevent the recurrence of similar accident.

Related:

Signal failure is cause of subway collision in S.Korea

SEOUL, May 3 (Xinhua) -- A signal failure was the cause of a subway collision in South Korea, indicating the accident came from human errors, the Seoul government office said Saturday.

The office told a press briefing that traffic signs did not work and caused a failure in automatic train stop (ATS).  Full story

Two subway trains collide in Seoul

SEOUL, May 2 (Xinhua) -- Two subway trains collided in Seoul on Friday afternoon, injuring around 200 passengers, Seoul's fire department said on Friday.

One train of Subway Line 2 ran into the back of another that stopped between stations because of mechanical problems near Sangwangsimni Station at around 3:32 p.m. local time. Full story

Editor: Zhu Ningzhu
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