KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said the authorities have launched an investigation into a head-on collision involving two light rail transit (LRT) trains on Monday (May 24) night that left 213 people injured, 47 of them seriously.
The accident happened underground between the Kampung Baru and KLCC stations at 8.45pm.
Dr Wee, who went to the scene after the crash, said the injured passengers were rushed to Kuala Lumpur Hospital for treatment.
"As part of the government, we are sad to face such incidents because it is the first such accident in over 23 years of the LRT operating in Malaysia.
"Further investigations on the cause of the accident will commence immediately, " he told a press conference at Avenue K, one of the exits to the KLCC LRT station on the Kelana Jaya line.
Dr Wee said the collision happened between an empty carriage that was on a test run and another carrying passengers, but did not offer insights into any preliminary findings of what could have caused the incident.
"One carriage was travelling at 20kmh and another at around 40kmh when the collision happened, and this caused a significant jolt that threw some passengers out of their seats," he told reporters, adding that a full report of the incident is expected to be completed in no less than two weeks' time.
It is understood that one of the trains involved in the collision was not under passenger service, and was being manually driven, though the Kelana Jaya line runs on a fully automated mode under normal service.
Dang Wangi police department assistant commander Mohamad Zainal Abdullah said 47 individuals suffered serious injuries, while 166 were lightly injured.
On social media, several pictures and videos of the incident quickly went viral, with some depicting passengers bleeding profusely, while others were seen lying on the train floor.
There was broken glass strewn across the floor, with many passengers appearing disorientated.
One of the passengers, 27-year-old Afiq Luqman, told the Malay Mail newspaper that the impact of the collision flung everyone to the train's floor.
"The accident, which happened in the tunnel near KLCC, resulted in many passengers, both seated and standing, to suffer injuries," he said when contacted.
Mr Afiq said that before the accident, the train had stopped for 15 minutes before moving again.
"We had only moved for a few seconds when the crash happened and the impact was so strong that I suffered injuries to my head, left leg and chest," he said.
Mr Afiq said he and the other passengers were helped out by the security team and rushed to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital for further treatment.
Another passenger who tweeted about the incident described the incident as a "tragedy".
Going by the Twitter handle @LimMahfudz, he shared videos and photos of the incident he had recorded.
While emerging relatively unscathed, he said some other passengers were injured by the train's broken glass panels while some were tossed around as the train stopped suddenly due to an emergency brake.https://twitter.com/LimMahfudz/status/1396868407849541634
The difficulty in extracting the injured from this rare incident stems from the fact that they had to be manually stretchered out, or walk out on their own, from the mangled trains to the nearest underground station.
According to a Fire and Rescue Department spokesman, care had to be taken to ensure electricity on the track was cut before rescuers could access the wreckage, while injured passengers had to struggle to walk through the uneven surface and tight confines of the tunnel.
In a Facebook post on Monday night, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also said a thorough probe will be conducted by the authorities.
"I view this accident seriously and I have ordered the Transport Ministry and (state public transport firm) Prasarana Malaysia to conduct thorough investigations in order to ascertain the cause of this accident, and stern action will be taken immediately, " he said.
"The priority now must be given to the victims of the accident and I have ordered all sides to give full cooperation in order to ensure that victims get a comprehensive treatment, since we are also facing a worsening Covid-19 pandemic."
The Kelana Jaya line, which resumed operations on Tuesday morning, was the first fully automated metro line in Malaysia when it opened in 1998.
With 37 stations, it is the busiest metro line in the country, moving nearly 300,000 passengers on an average working day before Covid-19 landed.
The arrival of the pandemic easily wiped by around 40 per cent the ridership of a line known to carry up to 350,000 passengers a day during national events.
It is also the first metro line in Malaysia to have underground stations.
On Tuesday, a Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the Singapore Government was "saddened" over the injuries caused by the accident, adding that there were no reports of Singaporean casualties.
Singaporeans in Malaysia who require consular assistance can contact the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur at (+60)3 2161 6277 or the 24-hour MFA duty office at (+65) 6379 8800/8855.