• Kyodo

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Seventy people were slightly injured early Sunday after two tour buses bumped into each other on the Hokuriku Expressway in Toyama Prefecture, police said.

According to police, a bus carrying 51 skiers from the Niigata and Nagano skiing grounds was returning to the Kansai area when it bumped into another bus carrying 22 tourists shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday.

The smaller bus was on its way to Himi, Toyama Prefecture, from Tokamachi, Nigata Prefecture, where the tourists had visited a snow festival.

Wataru Nakata, 37, driver of the larger bus, was quoted by investigators as saying that he had dozed off for a few moments just before waking to find the smaller bus just in front of his vehicle.

Part of the Osaka-bound lane was blocked for two hours and 45 minutes after the accident.

Meanwhile, three people aboard died early Sunday on the Nishi-Meihan Expressway in Osaka’s Kashiwara when their van rolled over after hitting another vehicle and bumping into a side wall.

Of the four aboard the van, three — Chisako Sugimura, 22, Hitomi Komeda, 22, and Yuya Kawabata, 22, all from Nara Prefecture — were killed after being thrown out of the vehicle. The fourth was severely injured, but the driver of the other vehicle through unharmed. Investigators believe the van scraped the other car in an attempt to pass.

The Nagoya-bound lanes of the expressway were partially closed for five hours between Matsubara and Kashiwara junctions following the accident.

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