Express train derails in northern Japan, killing four
TOKYO – An express train traveling through strong winter winds derailed in northern Japan, killing four people and injuring more than 30, officials said Monday.Five cars of the six-car express train derailed Sunday evening, three of them toppling onto their sides in Yamagata prefecture, about 180 miles north of Tokyo, officials said. The train was going from northern Akita to Niigata prefecture.The injuries of the survivors did not appear to be life-threatening, Yamagata police spokesman Yoshikatsu Oe said. It was unclear how many passengers were on the train, but Oe said most of the injured were in the first two cars.Two men and two women were killed, officials said. One of the men was pulled from the wreckage early Monday and was believed to be the last body on the train, a Yamagata police official said on condition of anonymity, citing departmental policy.Rescuers planned to lift the wreckage later in the day to see if any other passengers remained beneath, the official said.Transport Ministry official Ryotaro Miyamoto said the cause of the accident was not immediately known.Yamagata police official Yasuhiro Sugiu said there had been high wind warnings at the time of the accident. Winds in the area were about 48 mph, Kyodo News agency reported.Jun Kubota, spokesman for the railway operator JR East Co., said the crew of the train reported feeling a major impact as the lights inside the cars went out. Public broadcaster NHK quoted a train conductor as saying a strong gust hit the train.The train was reportedly traveling as fast as 62 mph just before the accident. Kubota said the speed limit in that area is set at 74 mph, and the train was not required to slow down under the weather conditions at the time.Japan in recent days has suffered from unusually heavy snowfall, and blizzards have led to the deaths of eight people. But NHK footage showed the wreckage in a rural area with only patches of snow on the ground.Speed was believed to be a factor in an April 25 train wreck that killed 107 people and injured more than 500 others in Amagasaki, western Japan. That accident was Japan’s worst train wreck since 1963.