Subway trains crash in South Korean capital, 172 people hurt

Posted May 02, 2014, at 6:47 a.m.

SEOUL — South Korea suffered its second serious transport accident in less than a month on Friday when a subway train in the capital, Seoul, crashed into another one at a station, injuring 172 people, although no one was killed.

The accident came just over two weeks after a South Korean ferry capsized and sank leaving 300 dead or missing in the submerged hull of the ship in the country’s worst disaster in 20 years.

Most of those hurt in the mid-afternoon accident on Friday appeared to have suffered minor abrasions, according to emergency officials at Sangwangsimni station in the east of the capital. Hospitals said the most serious injuries appeared to be concussion.

“An incoming train crashed into one that was stopped at the station,” fire department official Kim Kyung-su told a news conference.

About 1,000 people were evacuated, Kim said.

Seoul Metro official Chung Soo-young said the accident was caused by a signal failure and that two subway cars were derailed.

“I fell forwards maybe two or three meters,” said Lee Dong-hyeon, 26, an office worker on the train that crashed into the one stopped at the station.

“It was like tripping over when running really fast.”

About 4.5 million passengers use Seoul’s modern metro system every day.

The last major accident on a South Korean subway system was in 2003 when 192 were killed in a subway fire in the city of Daegu, which prompted major safety improvements.

South Korea has been mourning the hundreds who died in the April 16 ferry sinking, the prime minister has resigned and President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating has dropped sharply due to the slow response of rescue services.

More than 300 schoolchildren were on the ferry and many were ordered to stay on board as it sank by crew members who then got off the ship.

On Friday, an announcement on the train telling passengers to remain where they were was widely ignored, witnesses said.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon was at the scene of the crash. The metro is operated by the city of Seoul.

A Gallup Korea poll issued before the train accident on Friday showed President Park’s rating had plunged by 11 percentage points in the past two weeks to 48 percent.

 

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