Plane Talking is about message management in the media almost as much as it is about air transport and also covers rail transport issues as high speed surface transport technology grows as a competitive alternative to airline services.

This image of the wreckage being buried was abruptly removed from the Sino Weibo site

China has experienced a massive failure of central censorship at the hands of social media over the weekend with widespread posting of videos of damaged carriages being buried in hastily dug trenches at the foot of the elevated high speed rail lines at Wenzhou where one express slammed into the back of another on Saturday.

The videos still available on at least one China news site at 7 am Monday Australian time and archived on YouTube raise the possibility that the bodies of some of the victims remain inside the carriages, which were flattened and broken up by earthmoving equipment during hasty attempts to erase all visible traces of the disaster.

There are said to be references to this in the Chinese language interviews seen in the videos found on YouTube and on the various sites that are on top of the coverage including China Geeks and Storyful.

The accident happened on Saturday when one train came to a standstill after a lightning strike, and another ran into it, killing 35 people and injuring more than 200 according to official reports.

However the news reports and images recorded on social media suggest a much higher death toll. The China Geeks report aggregates some survivors stories and includes the text of a warning China authorities sent to the media prohibiting media attendance and also analysis of the accident.

It is also cautious about whether or not the bodies of uncounted victims were interred with the wrecked carriages, which were pushed off the elevated tracks where heavy equipment then broke them up and buried them in large trenches.

In one of the videos on China Geeks and also repeated in various edits on other sites the sequence of events appears to show one of more bodies on the side of a pit into which one of the carriages has already been positioned, followed by at least one victim being carried away by a group of men.

Consecutive extracts from a China media newscast, showing the general scene and at the foot of the viaduct at a pit being filled with the wreckge, victim retrieval
Consecutive extracts from a China media newscast, showing the general scene, and at the foot of the viaduct at a pit being filled with the wreckge, victim retrieval

On the Storyful.com post, two strands in the comments being posted in English and Chinese are highlighted, one saying that the two trains were never in communication with each other because they were under the control of different departments, and the other expressing disgust at the official claim that only 35 people had been killed.

For those who looked to China as being at the leading edge of high speed rail transport (including the writer) the reality of this accident, and claims of administrative incompetence and heavy handed attempts to bury the evidence and perhaps some of the victims is very unsettling.

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