By Hadi Azmi and S. Adie Zul
At least 200 people were injured, nearly 50 seriously, when two Kuala Lumpur metro trains collided in an underground stretch on Monday evening, Malaysian officials said.
The injured were rushed to various hospitals in the Malaysian capital, Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said, as photographs and videos tweeted by commuters showed bloodied passengers thrown off their seats or struck by broken glass.
“Forty-seven people sustained serious injuries and another 166 suffered minor injuries,” Wee said, adding there were 213 people in one of the trains, when the collision occurred around 8:30 p.m. (local time).
A Kelana Jaya light-rail train with commuters collided with one that was being driven on the wrong track but was carrying no passengers, Mohamad Zainal Abdullah, Dang Wangi district’s police chief, told reporters.
“The crash happened between the KLCC [Kuala Lumpur City Center] station and the Kampung Baru station,” Mohamad Zainal said.
“The empty train was on the wrong track. Both trains were supposed to use different tracks as they were heading towards opposite directions.”
“This appears to be an accident,” Zainal said, according to Bernama, the state-run news service.
An investigation is under way.
This was first major crash in the 23-year history of the light-rail service.
‘I view this accident seriously,’ PM says
Preliminary reports by the Kuala Lumpur fire and rescue department indicated that the train with passengers was moving at 25 mph upon departing the KLCC station, while the train on the wrong side of the tracks was going at 12 mph, when the collision happened.
All the passengers were pulled out of the train by 9:50 p.m. and sent to Kuala Lumpur Hospital and several other nearby hospitals for treatment.
Rescue personnel had to evacuate the injured along a narrow emergency path in the tunnel where the crash occurred, according to a preliminary report by the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia seen by BenarNews.
“Coordination with the train operators was essential to prevent secondary risks such as electrocution, as well as disturbance from other trains,” the report said.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin ordered the Transport Ministry and the metro’s service operator to conduct a full investigation into the crash.
“I view this accident seriously and have ordered the Ministry of Transport and Prasarana Malaysia Berhad to carry out a full probe to identify the cause of this accident, and stern action needs to be taken immediately,” he said in a statement.
Wee later announced that a special task force had been formed to investigate the crash.
The P.M. also urged authorities to ensure that all of the injured people received prompt treatment at a time when skyrocketing COVID-19 infections have led to hospitals’ intensive care units’ beds being near capacity.
The Associations of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) told BenarNews that private hospitals in Kuala Lumpur were ready to treat the injured.
“I am aware [of the incident]. All private hospitals are on standby to assist. We will wait for instructions from the Health Ministry,” Kuljit Singh, president of the association, told BenarNews.
The Kelana Jaya light rail service is the oldest metro line in Malaysia. It started operations in 1998 and was unveiled as part of 16th Commonwealth Games hosted by Malaysia that year.
The rail service is also the first one in the country that also runs below ground, with five underground stations, including one underneath the Petronas Twin Towers at KLCC, which is one of the busiest stations in the system.
Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.