Four of the Seoul-bound bullet train’s 10 cars went off the tracks shortly after it left the eastern coastal city of Gangneung, Gangwon Province, with 198 passengers Saturday. Fifteen people were injured in the accident, including a Korail employee who was inspecting another track.
At the time of the accident, two staff members -- the attendant and a cabin manager -- were aboard the train, according to Korail.
The cabin manager was in the first car and the attendant in the third. Passengers in the first and second cars were ordered by the cabin manager to leave the train, while those in the third were initially told to stay. It took some 10 minutes before passengers in the third car were evacuated.
“Because an attendant doesn’t have the authority, we can only evacuate passengers upon instructions from the manager or (Korail) staff. As I couldn’t reach the manager through a radio connection, I ran to the second car, and evacuated the passengers upon the manager’s orders,” the attendant told local media.
Because the train had only two staff on board, Air Force officers on leave who were on the train helped her evacuate other passengers, starting with the aged and the injured.
Under the law on railway safety, the cabin manager who is a staff representative of the Korail headquarters is in charge of safety issues, while the attendant, an employee of Korail subsidiary Korail Tourism Development, only checks tickets and attends to the passengers, according to Korail.
An official of the railway union said it is difficult for a single cabin manager to handle an emergency situation on a train that can have up to 1,000 passengers.
“The duty of the cabin manager is to keep the situation in the cabin under control and take appropriate actions through communication with the control office. Cabin attendants must also be able to take responsibility over safety issues,” he said.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)