Train rips side off oncoming rail car, kills four people

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The Independent Online

A Tokyo commuter train peeled away the side of an oncoming train car that derailed in its path during rush hour Wednesday morning, unleashing a shower of glass and metal in an accident that killed four people and injured 33 more.

A Tokyo commuter train peeled away the side of an oncoming train car that derailed in its path during rush hour Wednesday morning, unleashing a shower of glass and metal in an accident that killed four people and injured 33 more.

"With a 'boom' and an impact, my body was lifted up from the seat and I wondered what happened," passenger Motoshi Yamabe, 30, was quoted as saying in Thursday's Japan Times.

An unidentified woman living nearby told the paper, "I heard a very loud noise, and windows shook like it was an earthquake."

Bloodied garments lay strewn about the scene. Shocked passengers wandered near the ground-level track. A police blockade at the busy crossing near the station caused a huge traffic jam. Metro train service was disrupted for the morning rush.

Of the 33 people injured, several were in critical condition, police said. An updated count was not available immediately after the fourth death was reported early Thursday.

The trouble began when a car in the rear of a train emerging from a tunnel derailed on a curve just short of the elevated Nakameguro station in western Tokyo and struck two cars of an oncoming train packed with 1,300 passengers.

One side of the derailed car was ripped away from end to end. Two hundred and forty passengers were aboard that train.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known. An early media report blamed the derailment on an explosion, but officials - including the prime minister - quickly denied it.

All the air was gone from the hydraulic shock absorber under the derailed car, and that may have played a role in the accident, 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.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi instructed the Transport Ministry to investigate, spokesman Akitaka Saiki said.

Police were questioning the trains' operators and officials on suspicion of professional negligence, Kyodo said, but police refused to confirm that late Wednesday.

The vicidentified the third victim as Tomomi Yamazaki, 29, but said early Thursday that they had no immediate details on the identity of the fourth.

It is believed to be the worst Tokyo rail accident since 1988, when one train rammed into the back of another stopped at a station during rush hour, killing two and injuring 92.

A 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway killed 12 people and sickened thousands.

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