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Vietnamese risk own lives to save minutes crossing railways (photos)

Sunday, March 22, 2015, 14:05 GMT+7

Many bikers and pedestrians have recklessly defied warnings and thus jeopardized their lives crossing railways in Vietnam.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

A collision between a train carrying about 600 passengers and a truck occurred on March 10 in the central province of Quang Tri, killing the engine driver and severely injuring four others, including the truck driver.

The deadly accident happened on a railway section in Hai Lang District at 10:15 pm when the train, coded SE5, which was on its way from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, crashed into a truck carrying rocks that was crossing the line.

The impact cut the locomotive off from the remaining part of the train and threw three carriages, including two for passengers and one serving as a canteen, off the railroad.

The accident brought the north-south railway to a standstill for almost a day and caused damage worth an estimated VND23 billion (US$1.07 million).

However, the fatal crash and many other collisions happening previously have done little to raise locals’ awareness of abiding by traffic rules and deter them from risking their own lives and endangering the safety of passengers by “racing” with the approaching trains.

Most railway collisions have been caused by reckless drivers who obstinately crossed the sections, which can be legal or spontaneous crossing points, despite warning signals and deafening sirens. 

Le Ngoc Son, driver of the SE4 train, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters that local residents now keep ignoring the fatal risks when his train was traveling from the central city of Da Nang to Dong Hoi City, located in the central province of Quang Binh, one day.   

Son said he has all the railway sections in the palm of his hand after 27 years working as an engine driver.

“No matter how cautious I have been, my train has got involved in several collisions, killing and injuring almost 20 people. Countless other people were more fortunate as my train came to a halt just in time, or it just hit the vehicles while the drivers and passengers managed to escape unharmed,” he divulged.

Son underlined that the greatest perils involve traveling at night, as his train generally runs at a velocity of up to 80 kilometers per hour then, but unwary locals are under the misconception that his train is quite a distance away and thus freely cross the sections.

Dinh Tien Thanh, another engine driver, added that many coaches and trucks are kept tightly shut while their drivers turn on music at high volume and are thus unable to heed wailing sirens.

“The inability to hear the sirens along with limited visibility in several sections can result in deadly collisions,” he stressed.

According to statistics, the entire national railway grid currently has 5,751 crossing points.

Among them, 651 points are staffed with wardens, 310 others are installed with automatically operated warning signals, and 555 others have warning signs.

The remaining 4,200 points are unstaffed or have no signals.

Following the March 10 accident, Tuoi Tre reporters spent a week on trains and at several railway sections to take pictures of how people crossed railroads.

The photos are indicative of the omnipresent fatal risks which loom large but go overlooked in the neighborhoods where residential roads intersect with railways.

A common sight at railway sections with no barricades in An Hoa Ward in Hue City, the capital of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue. A woman is shown trying to outrun a fast approaching train at 5:00 pm on March 19, 2015, as the driver of the SE3 train repeatedly wailed his sirens and the train was only about 10 meters from the crossing point. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Two students in Hue City go through a red light at an intersection of a railway and Le Duan Street, crossing the railroad despite the looming sight of a train. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Tran Tuan Kiet (in blue uniform), a warden at a point on Tran Phu Street in Hue City, is powerless to intervene as a man stubbornly crosses the barricade despite the signal of an approaching train. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A railway section with no barricade goes through Luong Dien Village in Hai Lang District in Quang Tri Province. Locals remain unwary though almost 10 deadly crashes have happened in the area. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Though Nguyen Van Den (in green shirt,) a member of the Cua Huu motorbike taxi team in Hue City was trying to intervene, a motorcyclist had no intention to stop. Den said the presence of the team in the past 10 years has helped alleviate railway crashes and casualties. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A biker with a child behind is shown trying to outrun a looming train at the intersection of Yet Kieu and Le Duan Streets in Hue City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

This photo taken from inside the cabin of the SE4 train in Da Nang City, which was destined for Dong Hoi City, located in the central province of Quang Binh, shows that its driver Le Ngoc Son almost had to apply an emergency brake as a man dashed right in front of the locomotive amidst the wailing sirens. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Despite wailing sirens and dazzling flashlights, a woman “bravely” crosses a railway section. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In 2009, residents in Con Tau Village in Hai Lang District, Quang Tri Province set up a small shrine to pay homage to those who lost their lives in railway accidents happening in the area. Photo: Tuoi Tre

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These photos taken at 9:46 am on March 20, 2015 show how dangerously close it is between a passing truck and a looming train in Thuong Lam Village, located in Hai Lang District in the central province of Quang Tri. The site was exactly where the deadly March 10 accident happened, killing the train driver and injuring four others, in a similar circumstance. Photo: Tuoi Tre

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