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Bangkok subway accident injury toll approaches 200

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bangkok subway accident injury toll approaches 200

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - A subway train slammed into another one stopped at a station during morning rush hour Monday, injuring as many as 200 people, six months after the subway system opened in the Thai capital, police and officials said.

Some of the victims were bleeding as rescue workers carried them up the stairs of the Cultural Center station to ambulances.

Others, dazed and crying, were helped up the stairs to the street.

The badly injured driver of one of the trains was trapped in the wreckage until rescue workers pulled him out, said Yupadee Srinak, spokeswoman for the underground train service.

An executive of the company managing the system said that an initial investigation found that the crash resulted from a computer problem.

An injured passenger is carried on a stretcher by rescuers to a waiting ambulance at the Cultural Center station - APpic

"The signal from the computer that controls the trains was disappearing from time to time, and there was no computer signal at the time of the accident,'' said Praphat Jongsanguan.

The number of people hurt, initially reported to be in the dozens, climbed to about 190 as hospitals reported new admissions.

About 20 people were admitted to Rama 9 Hospital with injuries ranging from broken bones to internal bleeding, said hospital deputy director Dr. Termsak Kusolraksa.

Some 100 others had minor injuries and were expected to be released by late Monday.

Approximately 70 people were admitted to other hospitals, most with minor injuries.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreunkij ordered the train service suspended indefinitely.

"The subway service has to be suspended until the authorities concerned come up with the results of their investigations and can ensure the passengers that the security and all computer systems are functioning perfectly,'' he told reporters.

Suriya ruled out the possibility of sabotage by terrorists

The accident occurred in central Bangkok when an empty train leaving a repair station smashed into the back of one filled with about 700 passengers, he said. Both trains were badly damaged.

Worasak Kultisuk, 28, an office worker hurt slightly on a hand and shin, said he was on the train when "all of a sudden i just heard a large boom'' and the lights inside the car went out.

"I don't know if we got hit from the front or the back,'' he said, reflecting some confusion shared by several who were present at the accident.

He said his body was flung a few meters (yards) by the jolt.

"I was lucky I landed on top of somebody,'' he said. "I don't know who I landed on. It was completely dark.''

The subway system opened to the public in July. As part of an effort to ease Bangkok's notoriously heavy traffic, it links at three stations with elevated rail lines launched in 1999. The elevated system has suffered no major accidents. - AP

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