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Central Japan Railway Co., or JR Central, said Thursday that it has halted construction work on mountain tunnels for its maglev Shinkansen train line, following a deadly tunnel collapse the previous day.

The railway operator said that two construction workers were caught in a fall of rocks triggered by blasting operations at a tunnel in the city of Nakatsugawa, Gifu Prefecture. The accident left one dead and the other injured.

The company said that it will implement safety measures, including a thorough check of work procedures.

It was the first fatality to occur during the construction of the Chuo Shinkansen maglev train line.

Expressing his condolences over the life lost in the incident, Kenichi Niimi, a corporate officer from JR Central, said at a news conference in Nagoya, “We are very sorry for the accident.”

According to the company, the incident occurred when workers were digging around 70 meters into an emergency exit tunnel for a 4.4-kilometer main tunnel at around 7:20 p.m. on Wednesday.

The leg of the 44-year-old worker who was killed got caught in the fall of rocks, in response to blasting work involving explosives. Rocks collapsed again just as a 52-year-old worker tried to rescue him.

Mountain tunnels make up nearly half of the maglev line between Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and Nagoya Station. JR Central decided to suspend construction work at all sections temporarily.

While JR Central has yet to decide when to restart construction work at the site of the accident, the company will resume work at other tunnels as early as the start of next week.

The Gifu prefectural police inspected the accident site on Thursday afternoon. The police will look into the details of the circumstances at the time of the incident, suspecting possible professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

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