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238 injured in subway train collision

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Published : 2014-05-02 21:33
Updated : 2014-05-03 00:24

Two Seoul subway trains collided on Friday afternoon leaving 238 passengers injured, firefighters said.

An Inner Circle Line 2 train ran into the back of another that had stalled due to mechanical trouble at Sangwangsimni Station around 3:30 p.m., according to the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters. Passengers said a temporary blackout occurred after the collision.

Most of the injured were not reported to be in a serious condition. Some of the wounded passengers were taken to one of 13 nearby hospitals, mostly with minor scratches, with one of the two train drivers receiving surgery for a fractured shoulder, officials said. Around 43 passengers are currently being hospitalized.

Some 1,000 other passengers escaped safely around 10 minutes after the collision, they added.
 
Seoul Metro officials investigate the scene of a subway train collision at Sangwangsimni Station in eastern Seoul on Friday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

More than 200 firefighters, police and government officials were deployed at the scene, along with 58 fire trucks and ambulances.

Witnesses said two carriages were completely separated from the second train.

In an emergency briefing, Seoul Metro said that the signal light for the second train abruptly changed from “go” to “stop,” and the driver was unable to stop in time.

Another official said a device that helps all trains to maintain a safe distance of 200 meters may have been malfunctioning at the time of the accident.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport formed an emergency response team to deal with the accident, headed by Minister Suh Seoung-hwan.

“Although no fatalities have been reported, the ministry formed the team because the number of injuries suggested that the situation was grave,” said a ministry official. 
Passengers look at subway cars separated after a collision at Sangwangsimni Station in Seoul on Friday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

The ministry ordered more buses and taxis to be operated to compensate for the shortage in transportation.

Subway operations were partially suspended between Euljiro 1-ga and Seongsu stations.

The accident comes at a time of highlighted safety concerns regarding public transportation. The government has been conducting a comprehensive inspection on 4,000 facilities related to public transportation in the aftermath of the ferry sinking that claimed over 200 lives.

If a mechanical hiccup turns out to be the cause of the accident, it will mark the third time in about a month that a train has broken down because of a technical malfunction.

A similar accident occurred at Busan in 2011, when two trains collided due to a mistake by the driver. Over 100 were injured.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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