Four killed as trains collide in Tokyo rush-hour

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed and dozens more were injured when two subway trains collided yesterday morning at the height of Tokyo's rush hour.

Four people were killed and dozens more were injured when two subway trains collided yesterday morning at the height of Tokyo's rush hour.

The crash, in which a commuter train peeled away the side of an oncoming derailed train carriage, is believed to be Tokyo's worst rail accident in more than a decade.

Broken glass and mangled metal were strewn across the accident site, after an overcrowded train carrying 1,300 passengers smashed into the derailed carriage of another train travelling in the opposite direction on a parallel line.

Passengers described gory scenes after the accident, which occurred above ground close to Tokyo's Naka-Meguro station in the west of the city. One man said: "Our train came to a sudden halt after a loudrattling. Then I saw on the train opposite us that there were people lying on the floor of one carriage and there was lots of blood."

Another male passenger said: "I saw a huge lump of metal penetrating my carriage, and everybody was panicking. Many of the passengers were collapsing." A 30-year old passenger, Motoshi Yamabe, said: "With a 'boom' and an impact, my body was lifted up from the seat and I wondered what had happened." Apart from the four confirmed dead, including one 17-year-old boy, several more passengers were in a "critical" condition last night. A total of 33 people were injured.

The train travelling into Tokyo contained passengers crammed 160 to a carriage when the rear carriage of the train travelling in the opposite direction derailed, sprawling across the narrow space that had separated them.

The derailed section slammed into the overcrowded train, ripping off its sides. The government denied early reports that the derailment was caused by an explosion, although no explanation for the accident was immediately forthcoming. All the air was gone from the hydraulic shock absorber under the derailed car, and that may have played a role in the accident, other media reports said.

Transport Ministry officials said a possible cause of the derailment was the tracks' sharp curve along a slope, Kyodo News agency said.

In the Japanese Diet, opposition politicians criticised the Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi, who left his office for a hair appointment soon after first reports of the crash. "I was taking care of my appearance because of parliament this afternoon," Mr Obuchi said. "I did everything I could." Mr Obuchi has instructed the Transport Ministry to investigate.

Police are reportedly questioning the trains' operators and officials on suspicion of professional negligence.

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