Five Japanese among 11 injured as landslide derails train in Swiss Alps

Kyodo, AP

Five Japanese passengers were among 11 people injured when a train was derailed by a landslide in southeastern Switzerland on Wednesday, according to local police and the Japanese Embassy.

The accident took place in the mountains near St. Moritz in the canton of Graubunden. Three cars were derailed, with one of them falling down a steep mountain slope about 10 meters before being stopped by trees.

The Japanese Embassy said the five Japanese were in the derailed cars and that those injured were a couple from Yokohama city and another couple residing in the Netherlands, as well as their child.

The husband of the Yokohama couple suffered a serious hip injury, while the four others sustained minor injuries. The embassy did not disclose their names, but added that the injuries were not life-threatening.

The accident occurred in a deep wooded valley between Tiefencastel and Solis, southeast of Zurich in the canton (state) of Graubuenden. Police said about 140 people were on board at the time of the accident, about lunchtime. The landslide followed heavy rains over the last day.

Five people were seriously injured and another six sustained slight injuries, Graubuenden police spokeswoman Anita Senti said. They included eight Swiss and one Australian, police said.

The train had set off from the ski resort of St. Moritz heading north toward Chur, Graubuenden’s administrative capital.

Police initially said the train ran into a landslide on the track, but later revised their comments to say a landslide hit the train as it traveled between two tunnels along the side of a valley. One train car slid about 10 meters (33 feet) down the slope before being stopped by the trees.

Air rescue helicopters helped with the recovery effort since the crash site was not near a road. By midafternoon, everyone had been evacuated, with uninjured passengers taken to Tiefencastel and put on buses.

The train is operated by Rhaetische Bahn, which runs narrow-gauge routes in Switzerland’s mountainous southeastern corner that are popular with tourists. The line is expected to remain closed for two days.

Switzerland’s rail system is considered among the safest and most efficient in the world, despite the country’s challenging terrain.

Accidents are rare, although in 2010 the popular Glacier Express tourist train derailed in the Alps in southern Switzerland, killing one Japanese and injuring 42 others.