11 passengers hurt in Wakayama train derailment

Kyodo

Eleven passengers were injured when a rapid service train derailed Wednesday morning in Kainan, Wakayama Prefecture, local rescue authorities said.

The train derailed after hitting logs scattered by a traffic accident on an overpass above the tracks, they said.

The drivers of the two vehicles in the traffic accident were also injured.

The motorman on the four-car train, which was traveling with about 500 passengers from Gobo to Wakayama on the JR Kisei Line, applied the emergency brake after seeing the logs strewn along the tracks at around 7:15 a.m.

But he could not stop the train in time and the first car derailed, according to West Japan Railway Co.

Eleven passengers, aged 15 to 36, and the two drivers in the traffic accident suffered minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.

According to police, a truck transporting the logs failed to negotiate a curve and smashed into the side rail on an overpass above the railroad tracks. About 30 of the 40 logs on the truck — each around 50 cm in diameter and 10 meters long — fell down onto the tracks roughly 7 meters below.

The truck then collided with a minicar in the opposite lane before rolling on its side, police added.

Fire officials dispatched to the scene of the traffic accident, which occurred 15 minutes before the train accident, saw the logs on the tracks and tried to alert JR West, but the message did not reach the railway operator in enough time to prevent the derailment, according to investigators.

Police questioned the two drivers to determine the cause of the traffic accident.

Following the derailment, operations on the Kisei Line were suspended, and the train passengers were transported by bus after disembarking from the train through the last car at Shimizuura Station, JR West said, adding that the train was full of commuters at the time of the accident.

Passenger Masashi Yamashita, a 17-year-old high school student, said he was dozing off when he saw the logs raining down from the overpass.

Other passengers described broken glass flying throughout the train’s cars.