Subway trains crash in Korea, injuring 238

May 2, 2014
Two Seoul Metro trains crashed Friday, injuring more than 230. /Newsis

Two Seoul Metro trains crashed Friday, injuring more than 230. /Newsis

By Nam Hyun-woo

A subway train hit another from behind in eastern Seoul on Friday afternoon.

Over 230 were hurt with three badly injured and the rest sustaining bruises and other light injuries.

The collision comes at a time when the nation is still in shock and grief from the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry that leaves over 300 dead or missing.

The collision took place at Sangwangsimni Station in eastern Seoul at around 3:30 p.m.

According to officials from Seoul Metro and other sources, the safety feature that shuts down a train within 200 meters of another was not in operation.

“When I recognized the train ahead, I tried to put the brakes on but it turned out to be too late,” the driver of the second train was quoted as saying.

More than 1,000 passengers were on board the trains, more than usual at the time of the day due obviously to the ongoing holiday season.

Many firms gave Friday off to provide workers with an extended holiday that lasts until Tuesday.

They got off the trains and walked the tracks to the station, some passengers said, saying that the lights went out with a big bang from the collision. Some forced windows open to escape from the train.

Metro officials said that two subway cars were derailed. The injured were brought to 12 nearby hospitals for treatment. Two had fractured bones, according to rescuers.

Seoul Metro did not comment on the cause of the accident.

“The train in front had no problem. When it was about to leave the station, it was hit from behind. I have never seen this kind of incident,” a senior Seoul Metro official said.

He said that around 150 subway workers were deployed to resume the service.

Subway Line 2 rings around Seoul. The accident happened on the line running clockwise called the “inner circle.”

More than 2 million citizens use it daily.

Mayor Park Won-soon visited the site. A number of subway accidents have taken place recently, prompting Park to promise improvement in safety. The latest accident, however, showed Park’s efforts are not working, his critics say.

Many citizens were spooked by the news about the accident, obviously having to re-live the initial stage of the Sewol ferry sinking, when it was reported nearly all passengers were rescued.

As time progressed, only 174 were saved with over 300 left trapped inside the sinking ship. Most of the victims were high school students on a school trip, who stayed inside their cabins as told by the ship crew.

The crews escaped, abandoning the students, according to reconstructed accounts of the accident.

The Seoul Metro official said that the operators told passengers to stay inside and after communicating with the control room, instructed them to get out of the car.

But many said that they did not hear any announcement.

“Officials did not open the door and there were no announcements at all. A male passenger opened the door and I wormed my way out,” a female passenger told The Korea Times.

Passengers, who described the chaotic situations through social-networking services like Twitter, also made similar comments.

The accident is expected further weigh on the Park administration, which already struggles to grapple with the aftermath of the Sewol tragedy that left more than 300 dead or listed as missing.

Meanwhile, the ferry Dolphin carrying about 400 passengers from Ulleung Island to Dokdo returned to the former late Friday because of engine failure.