SEOUL: South Korea suffered its second serious transport accident in just over two weeks yesterday when a subway train in the capital, Seoul, crashed into a train at a station, injuring 200 people although no one was killed.
The country is still mourning the victims of a ferry accident on April 16, when 300 people were killed or are missing in the submerged hull of a capsized ship in the country’s worst disaster in 20 years. Most of those hurt in the mid-afternoon accident yesterday appeared to have suffered minor abrasions, according to emergency officials at Sangwangsimni station in the east of the capital, although one person was being treated for a brain haemorrhage and one for a fracture.
“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 metres,” said Lee Dong-hyeon, 26, an office worker on the train that crashed into the one stopped at the station.
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.
Last month’s ferry accident off the southwest coast led to the resignation of the prime minister 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.
Yesterday, an announcement on the train telling passengers to remain where they were was widely ignored. Many passengers forced open the train doors and jumped down onto the track to get away, 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 yesterday showed President Park’s rating had plunged by 11 percentage points in the past two weeks to 48 percent.