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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Japanese train crash kills dozens
Aerial view of crash site

A train has derailed and hit a building in Japan, killing 50 people and injuring about 300 in the country's worst rail crash in four decades.

The commuter train came off the tracks at Amagasaki near Osaka, 410km (255 miles) west of Tokyo, and the front two carriages rammed into a building.

The train company said it was investigating the cause of the crash.

Some passengers said the train appeared to have been travelling too fast and began to shake before it derailed.

"The train overran a stop at the previous station and so it backtracked, so I guess the driver was in a hurry because the train was running late," one survivor told Japanese television.


The train company, West Japan Railway, confirmed that the driver had overshot the stop, and said the accident was under investigation.

"The priority for now is to rescue the passengers," the firm's president, Takeshi Kakiuchi, told reporters.

The crash happened at 0920 (0020 GMT), shortly after the morning rush hour. The train was carrying almost 600 passengers.

"It felt like the train speeded up as it was going around a curve and I thought there were some strange swings, and then the train derailed," passenger Tatsuya Akashi told NHK television.

"No one knew what happened and everyone kept screaming."

Improvised stretchers

As evening fell, some passengers were believed to be still trapped in the wreckage.

Rescue crews had to use cutters to open parts of the train and pull out trapped passengers. They used train seats as improvised stretchers.

JAPAN'S RAIL SAFETY RECORD
1963: Freight train crashes into derailed commuter train in Tokyo, 163 people killed
April 1991 - 42 killed when two trains collide near Shigaraki
March 2000 - Tokyo subway train crashes into derailed train, killing five
April 2005 - Crash near Osaka kills at least 50
The emergency services set up large tents to treat the victims.

Investigators are focussing on whether excessive speed or the actions of the inexperienced driver may have caused the crash.

It happened on a curve after a straight section of track, requiring the driver to slow to a speed of 70km/h (43mph).

The driver, 23, is believed to have survived. He became a train driver less than a year ago.

HAVE YOUR SAY
What started as a day of excitement has ended in terrible tragedy
Michael, Japan

Company officials said he had committed a previous overrun at a station in June 2004.

The BBC's Jonathan Head says Japan's railway system, used by nearly 60 million people every day, is widely considered to be one of the world's safest.

This is the worst rail accident in Japan since a three-train crash killed 161 near Tokyo in 1963.

JAPAN RAIL CRASH
1: Crash happened at 0020GMT at end of morning rush-hour
2: Seven-carriage train had 580 people aboard
3: Four of the carriages derailed (one not visible)




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes from the train crash




SEE ALSO:
Japan's fame for rail safety
25 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Japan train crash
25 Apr 05 |  In Pictures
Crash train 'faster than usual'
25 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Japan
20 Mar 05 |  Country profiles


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