Xinhua Insight: Microblogs reveal the healing power of "we-media" in wake of deadly high-speed train crash in east China

English.news.cn   2011-07-24 22:53:08 FeedbackPrintRSS

BEIJING, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Amid the wailing and panicked shouts of passengers trapped in a derailed high-speed train car, a 19-year-old passenger used her cell phone to post a SOS message on her microblog Saturday night.

"Help us, please. Our train is tilted and the coach is trapped. The other coaches were rear-ended," one of her messages said.

Her first message had received 18,441 replies as of Sunday morning. People from all walks of life have been prompted to action by the posts made by the student and others in the wake of China's deadliest railway accident in years.

Thirty-five people have been confirmed dead and 210 others were injured after bullet train D301 crashed into another train D3115 at 8:38 p.m. Saturday near the city of Wenzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province. Train D3115 was halted on the tracks after being hit by lightning and losing power, with train D301 rear-ending train D3115 on a suspended bridge. Two of train D3115's coaches were derailed, while four of train D301's coaches fell off of the bridge.

The latest developments in the accident have concurrently broken out through both official news media channels and microblogs hosted by China's online news portal sina.com.

Shortly after the injured passengers were taken to hospitals in Wenzhou for treatment, lengthy lists bearing the names of the injured were circulated online. Families looking for missing relatives have uploaded pictures and brief descriptions of their family members, hoping that people in Wenzhou will check local hospitals to see if they can find their relatives.

One netizen posted an image of a crying face and a burning candle on his or her microblog, saying that "I really do not know what to do. Please forward my information. I am looking for Lu Haitian, he was sitting in the third coach. I have been calling him for hours, but his phone is still powered off."

The message was reposted 4,464 times before word came out that Lu had perished in the accident. Many netizens responded by posting images of a red candle, wishing Lu peace in death.

Lu was a sophomore at the Communications University of China. He was taking the train to Wenzhou to start an internship at a local TV station.

Local hospitals reported blood supply shortages after receiving a large number of injured people from the accident. Many people have rushed to donate blood at local donation centers after hearing about the shortages online.

One netizen with the screenname "dazaimaojiekun" posted on his microblog: "I took the D3115 train myself two months ago. Brothers, let's go to donate blood. Unity is strength."

The Zhejiang Provincial Health Bureau posted a message on its own official microblog expressing gratitude for the blood donors, announcing that blood supplies have been secured.

"Microblogs have once again beaten traditional media in terms of mobilization, amount of information and speed," reads a message posted on a microblog belonging to Sina Zhejiang Videonews.

The Sichuan Cellphone Press, an organization that provides interactive mobile and digital media as a supplement to traditional media, posted a message on its official microblog extolling the power of "we-media," a term used to describe regular citizens who, armed with easy-to-use web publishing tools such as mobile phones and laptops, have become active participants in the creation and dissemination of news and information in recent years.

"The first published picture of the crash site did not come from traditional media, but from a Wenzhou resident. From blood donations to on-the-spot rescues, everything has been shot from the air. The power of 'we-media' is overwhelming!" the Sichuan Cellphone Press said.

The resident's name has been confirmed as Chen Bin by China Central Television, which used pictures that he provided.

Statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center showed that China had 485 million active Internet users as of June this year. In the first half of the year, the number of microblog users in China surged from 63.11 million to 195 million.

"In emergency situations, microblogs have not only served as a significant tool for information dissemination, but have also affected the formation and changing of public opinion," said Meng Lingjun, a lecturer at the Central China Normal University.

However, while microblogs have played a supervisory role and established a platform for emergency rescue efforts during past crises, they can also become hot beds of rumors and resentment, Meng said.

While the cause of the accident is still under investigation, devastated netizens have called on the government to designate a national mourning day to commemorate the deceased.

A netizen using the screenname "xuefeige" from south China's Guangdong Province said that he was confused as to why train D3115 failed to communicate with the railway dispatch center after losing power.

"I am still panic-stricken after hearing that 41 people died in a bus fire on Friday. Here comes yet another miserable accident. What is the safest vehicle to travel by?" he said.

An overcrowded long-distance bus caught fire on the Beijing-Zhuhai Expressway near the city of Xinyang in central China's Henan Province on Friday. The State Council, or China's Cabinet, issued a notice after the fire calling on all relevant departments to tighten their monitoring of the country's traffic safety and prevent the occurrence of future accidents. However, the train derailment was not avoided.

A netizen using the screenname "taoyuhuaxiang" from east China's Shandong Province posted on Sunday: "pray for those who died in the Wenzhou train crash. Look at the barrage of transportation accidents; I cannot help but cry for the fragility of our lives. Let the deceased rest in peace."

Operations have been suspended for a total of 58 trains as a result of the crash. Local railway authorities have promised to restore service as soon as possible and has already begun to refund tickets for affected passengers.

The 19-year-old university student who sent out the first call for help revealed that she studies at Beijing Geely University.

"Thanks to the help of so many kind people, I have arrived home safe. You gave me a second life," she posted Sunday morning, using the screenname "yangjuanjuanyang."

"Many thanks for the police who brought hope to those of us trapped in the train. Many thanks for all those who have helped us, directly or indirectly. May kind people forever have safe lives!" she added.

Editor: yan
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