Monday, April 25, 2005

Posted by kuri, ping, the pinglet, & mini-ping on 4/25/2005

In a country that prides itself on its low number of train related accidents, this is going to have major reprecussions.

TOKYO - A crowded commuter train derailed and plowed into an apartment building in western Japan on Monday, turning passenger cars into twisted clumps of metal. At least 37 people were killed and some 220 injured, officials said.

The seven-car commuter train was carrying 580 passengers when it jumped the tracks, wrecking an automobile in its path before slamming into a nine-story apartment complex just yards away. Two of the four derailed cars were flattened against the wall of the building, and hundreds of rescue workers and police swarmed the wreckage and tended to the injured.
The cause of the crash in an urban area near Amagasaki, about 250 miles west of Tokyo, was not immediately known, but survivors said excessive speed may have been a factor. Attention focused on the inexperienced, 23-year-old driver.

"There was a violent shaking, and the next moment I was thrown to the floor ... and I landed on top of a pile of other people," passenger Tatsuya Akashi told national broadcaster NHK. "I didn't know what happened, and there were many people bleeding."

An official with the Hyogo state police said at least 37 people were killed and that at least 220 were injured. It was not clear how many of the dead were passengers of if bystanders and apartment residents were among the victims.

The accident was the worst rail disaster in 14 years in Japan, which is home to one of the world's most complex and heavily traveled rail networks. An accident killed 42 people in April 1991 in Shigaraki, western Japan.

"There are many theories but we don't know for sure what caused the accident," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said. "The prime minister instructed us to respond with urgency."
The train operator, Japan Railway Co., apologized.

"Our most important task now is to rescue the passengers from the accident and we are doing our best," West Japan Railway Co. President Takeshi Kakiuchi told reporters.

Survivors said the force of the derailment sent passengers tumbling through the inside of the cars. Photos taken by an NHK reporter aboard the train showed passengers piled on the floor and some clawing to escape from the busted shells of the cars.

NHK said the train collided with a car in between train stations while it was running at a speed of 43 mph, though a railway official said that figure wasn't certain.

Investigators struggled to come up with reasons for the crash. Tsunemi Murakami, the railway's safety director, estimated that the train would have had to have been going 82 mph to have jumped the track purely because of excessive speed.

He said it still was not certain how fast the train was going at the time of the accident.
The driver's inexperience may also have been a factor. He only had 11 months experience and had committed a previous overrun at a station in June 2004, officials said.

Authorities mobilized for a speedy rescue. The central government in Tokyo dispatched Self-Defense Force soldiers to the disaster scene to assist.

1 of you feeling verklempt. Tawlk amongst yourselves:

Anonymous said...

I heard about this on the radio this was pretty scary.
Love Mom


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