Japanese commuter train derails, apartment building smashed

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Hyogo province

A seven-car commuter train carrying 580 passengers jumped off the tracks, plowed through a car, and collided with a nine-story apartment building in Amagasaki, Japan on Monday at 9:18 am local time (00:18 UTC). The crash was about 410km west of Tokyo near Osaka in the Hyogo prefecture.

Casualties have risen to 101 deaths and at least 440 injuries. The train had 600 people on board at the time, including crew. Rescue workers swarmed the scene where two of the rail cars were flattened against walls of the apartment building.

It appears that excessive speed was a factor in the wreck. Investigators are focusing on the 23-year-old driver who overshot the last station on the line before the wreck, and had received a warning in the past for a similar incident.

The accident is the worst rail disaster since 1963, when a three-train crash killed 161. The rail is part of the West Japan Railway Co of Fukuchiyama Line. The rail president Takeshi Kakiuchi publicly apologized, telling reporters, "Our most important task now is to rescue the passengers from the accident and we are doing our best."

Japan has one of the world's most complex and widely used rail systems.

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