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Hong Kong train derailment triggers rush-hour chaos and passengers injuries

Mike Ives, Elaine Yu
Workers investigate a derailed train in Hong Kong on 17 September 2019: EPA/JEROME FAVRE

A subway train has derailed in Hong Kong, injuring at least eight passengers and snarling the morning rush-hour commute in a city whose transit system has been routinely disrupted by three months of pro-democracy protests.

The fire service said eight people were injured, with five being sent to hospital for treatment.

Such accidents are exceedingly rare in Hong Kong, and there was no indication that the crash was related to the protests that have prompted the former British colony’s worst political crisis since it was handed back to Chinese control in 1997.

The crash comes after an especially violent weekend of street clashes, in which the Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannons after protesters vandalised a subway station and attacked government offices with bricks and gasoline bombs.

Adi Lau, the operations director for Hong Kong’s subway operator, the MTR Corporation, told reporters that three middle carriages of the 12-carriage train had derailed.

He said it was too early to draw conclusions about the cause of the accident.

At a separate news conference, Frank Chan, Hong Kong’s secretary for transport and housing, called the accident a “very serious incident”.

“We will not rule out any possibility, but at this stage we won’t speculate on any particular suggestions,” Mr Chan said when asked about the possible causes of the crash.

He said an investigation was underway.

The MTR Corporation’s shares fell on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange at the start of trading Tuesday, but had recovered slightly by midmorning.

MTR stations have emerged as a prime target of vandalism during recent protests, apparently because protesters are angry at the company for having allowed riot police officers to enter its stations and beat or round up protesters.

On Sunday, protesters set up barricades and broke glass railings inside one downtown station, and set a fire outside another.

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The derailment occurred as a train entered the Hung Hom Station, which sits across the city’s harbour from Hong Kong Island and is also the terminus for rail service to the Chinese mainland.

Passengers were forced to leave the train, which was split into two sections, by walking across the tracks.

In March, an MTR train derailed and hit another train during a test of a new signalling system.

That crash occurred in the middle of the night and neither train was carrying passengers.

The New York Times

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