China has almost doubled the compensation offered to relatives of those killed in a high-speed train crash, state media said today, after fierce criticism of authorities’ handling of the disaster.
Bereaved relatives will receive 915,000 yuan ($142,000) — 415,000 yuan more than the original amount on offer, the official Xinhua news agency said, as the death toll from the crash near the eastern city of Wenzhou rose to 40.
The accident was the worst ever to hit China’s high-speed rail network and has raised questions over whether safety concerns may have been overlooked in the rush to build the world’s largest high-speed railway.
There has also been widespread criticism in the media and on social networking sites of the government’s response in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
Premier Wen Jiabao, who often travels to disaster scenes, waited until Thursday visit the accident site, blaming the delay on illness, and for several days authorities refused to speak about the cause of the crash.
It was not until Thursday — five days after the accident — that rail officials finally admitted the Chinese-built signalling system was to blame and the company that built it apologized.
China’s state-controlled media has been unusually outspoken in its coverage of the accident, defying directives not to question the official line.
It also criticized the company which designed the signalling equipment for giving only a “bare bones” explanation and for failing to answer “many of the questions posed by journalists” at a press conference on yesterday.
There have also been reports of relatives refusing to accept compensation packages until the accident has been fully investigated, and on Friday Xinhua said authorities had decided to increase the payment on offer.
The rise came as a male passenger succumbed to his injuries in hospital, taking the death toll to 40, with nearly 200 injured.