BEIJING — A toddler was rescued about 21 hours after a crash involving two high-speed trains in eastern China killed at least 43 people and injured more than 200 others, state media reported Sunday.
Xinhua News Agency said the unconscious child was found early Sunday evening while rescuers were clearing one of the train cars just as the cleanup efforts were almost completed. It cited an unnamed firefighter.
“When we found him, he could still move his hands,” Xinhua quoted the firefighter as saying.
China Central Television first reported that the toddler was a boy, but later said a 4-year-old girl.
The toddler was taken to the hospital and no other details were provided.
A bullet train was traveling south from the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou on Saturday evening when it lost power in a lightning strike and stalled, before being hit from behind by the second train in Wenzhou city.
Eight more bodies were recovered Sunday from damaged train cars, bringing the death toll to 43, Xinhua said. Two foreigners were among the dead but their nationalities were unclear, said an official surnamed Wang in the Zhejiang provincial emergency office. A total of 211 people were injured, Xinhua said.
The first four cars of the moving train fell about 65 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) off the viaduct onto the ground below. One carriage ended up in a vertical position, leaning against the viaduct.
The Ministry of Railways said in a statement that the first four cars of the moving train and the last two of the stalled train derailed.
Three railway officials were fired after the crash and would be subject to investigation, Xinhua quoted the ministry as saying. They were identified as Long Jing, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau; Li Jia, head of the Shanghai railway bureau’s committee of the Communist Party of China; and deputy chief of the bureau, He Shengli.
It was the first derailment on China’s high-speed rail network since the country launched bullet trains with a top speed of 155 miles (250 kilometers) per hour in 2007, the China Daily reported.
It is an embarrassment for China, which plans to massively expand its bullet train network to link its far-flung regions and show off its rising wealth and technological prowess. It is also trying to sell its trains to Latin America and the Middle East.
Last month, it launched to great fanfare the Beijing-to-Shanghai high-speed line, where trains travel at a maximum speed of 186 miles (300 kilometers) per hour. The speed was cut from the originally planned 217 mph (350 kph) after questions were raised about safety.
In less than four weeks of operation, power outages and other malfunctions have plagued the showcase 820-mile (1,318-kilometer) line. The Railways Ministry has apologized for the problems and said that summer thunderstorms and winds were the cause in some cases.
The second train involved in the crash came from Beijing and both trains were destined for Fuzhou in eastern Fujian province. Wang, who only gave his surname, as is common with Chinese officials, said it was unclear how long the first train had sat on the track before being struck. State broadcaster CCTV said there were more than 900 passengers on the train that stalled, and more than 500 passengers on the train that hit it.
Early Sunday, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for an all-out effort to rescue passengers still trapped in the wreckage hours after the collision.
More than 500 residents had given blood by 9 a.m. Sunday after appeals from the local blood bank, which said many of the injured needed transfusions, CCTV reported.
It was China’s worst train accident since April 2008, when a train traveling from Beijing to the eastern coastal city of Qingdao derailed and crashed into another train, leaving 72 dead and another 416 injured.
Official plans call for China’s bullet train network to expand to 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) of track this year and 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) by 2020.
China’s trains are based on Japanese, French and German technology but its manufacturers are trying to sell to Latin America and the Middle East. That has prompted complaints Beijing is violating the spirit of licenses with foreign providers by reselling technology that was meant to be used only in China.
The huge spending connected with the rail expansion also has been blamed for corruption. Railways Minister Liu Zhijun was dismissed this spring amid an investigation into unspecified corruption allegations.
No details have been released about the allegations against him, but news reports say they include kickbacks, bribes, illegal contracts and sexual liaisons.