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First Death on Tibet Railway

An elderly Hong Kong tourist has died from altitude sickness after riding on China's new Tibet railway, billed by Beijing as the world's highest, state media have said.


The unnamed 77-year-old man is the first person known to have died as a result of traveling on the line which opened last month to great fanfare.


The official news agency Xinhua suggested Wednesday he should not have been on the train as he had been diagnosed with pulmonary edema, a swelling or accumulation of fluid in the lungs, before boarding in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.


He became gravely ill on board and died on August 1 while being taken to a local hospital in Anduo, a town on the train line, railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping said.


Wang said the man, who was traveling to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province, had discharged himself from hospital in Lhasa and boarded the train against his doctor's recommendation.


"Tourists should not take the trip to Tibet by train unless they first have a physical examination and get the doctor's approval," Wang said.


"Bad headaches and vomiting should be reported to railway staff to ensure treatment is received as soon as possible."


The railway line contains sections which are the highest in the world and the train, reaching altitudes above 5,000 meters, is equipped with pure oxygen for passengers to prevent any altitude sickness.


President Hu Jintao opened the railway on July 1, calling it a magnificent engineering feat and a miracle for the world.


The latest 4.2-billion dollar section of the railway runs 1,142 kilometers (713 miles) from the desert outpost of Golmud in Qinghai province to Lhasa.


Previously visitors could only get to Tibet on slow, uncomfortable bus rides or on relatively expensive flights. On the new train, people can travel for 48 hours from Beijing to Lhasa for under US$50.


The train had carried 300,000 passengers to Tibet by Tuesday, said Wang.


(China Daily via AFP August 31, 2006)


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