SEOUL: Two subway trains collided in Seoul on Friday, injuring more than 170 people but with no reported fatalities, emergency services said.
News of the accident broke as the country still reels from the ferry disaster that has left around 300 people dead or missing — most of them schoolchildren — after the boat capsized and sank on April 16.
The ferry tragedy has triggered widespread public anger and a bout of national soul-searching as to whether South Korea — now Asia’s fourth-largest economy — sacrificed safety standards in its rush for development.
Briefing reporters, fire department official Kim Kyung-Soo said 172 people had been injured in Friday’s train collision, none of them seriously.
The accident happened at about 3:30 p.m. when a moving train slammed into the rear of a stationary train at Sangwangsimni station in eastern Seoul.
Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the two trains, Kim said, adding that many of those hurt had complained of ankle injuries, cuts and bruises.
According to senior Seoul Metro official Chung Soo-Young, initial investigations suggested the automated stopping system that should prevent a train getting too close to another appeared to have failed.
The tunnel curves before entering Sangwangsimni station and Chung said the driver of the moving train did not see the platform was occupied until quite late.
He applied the emergency break, but the distance was “too short” to avoid a collision, Chung said.
The two last cars of the stationary train appeared to have been thrown off the rails by the force of the impact, and TV footage showed cracked windows on the two trains and one door connecting two carriages that had been completely knocked off its hinges.
Seoul’s subway network in one of the busiest in the world, carrying around 5.25 million passengers a day, according to official data from City Hall.
Although there were no fatalities, the accident will likely fuel public criticism of the government for lax safety standards caused by the alleged collusion of transport companies and state regulators.
President Park Geun-Hye’s approval ratings, which have been impressively high since she took office a little over a year ago, have fallen by around 11 percentage points in the wake of the ferry disaster, according to Gallup Korea.