Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao ordered on Wednesday a swift and transparent investigation into the weekend crash of two high-speed trains that has ignited public anger, and pledged the government would take "resolute" safety steps in its aftermath.
"Great importance must be attached to finding out the facts and judging the responsibility in accordance with laws and regulations," state news agency Xinhua cited a statement from a cabinet meeting chaired by Wen as saying.
There must be a "swift, open and transparent investigation" and the results must be made public, the report added.
The government would also take "resolute steps to comprehensively strengthen safety," it said.
Wen also offered his "deep sympathies" to the victims and their families, Xinhua added.
The cabinet "demanded efforts to be made to confirm the death toll, identify the victims and provide proper compensation," it said. "Unswerving efforts should be made to treat those who were injured in the crash."
Government departments must take this opportunity to strengthen safety across the board, including in the deadly coal mining sector, Xinhua said.
"Safety matters to people's lives and properties ... and the Party's and government's image and reputation."
Internet users have flooded websites and microblogs with angry comments following the crash in eastern China's Zhejiang province which killed 39 people, the country's deadliest rail accident since 2008.
Even before the investigation into the cause of the crash was complete, Beijing on Sunday sacked three middle-level railway officials, seeking to assuage public fury about the government's mishandling of the incident.
Efforts by the propaganda department to bar Chinese media from questioning official accounts of the accident only fuelled the anger and suspicion, especially about the death toll and rescue efforts.
The Railway Ministry is still investigating the cause of the accident, and has ordered a two-month safety review of railway operations.
State media has said a bullet train hit another express that lost power following a lightning strike, adding that the power failure knocked out an electronic safety system designed to alert conductors about stalled locomotives on the line.
The accident has raised concerns about the safety of the country's high-profile and fast-growing rail network and threatens to undermine its plans to export high-speed train technology.