A Japanese commuter train came off the tracks at Amagasaki, a suburb of Osaka, about 400 kms (255 miles) west of Tokyo, and rammed into a building at about 9:20 a.m. local time. News reports have put the death toll at 50 with more than 300 injured. Rescue workers are still at the scene searching for survivors.
The cause of the crash, Japan’s worst rail disaster since 1963, has yet to be determined. Preliminary reports from news agencies indicate that the train had overrun the station at its previous stop and was possibly running late. The engineer may have increased speed to make up the lost time, causing the derailment.
Five cars of the seven car train, carrying an estimated 580 passengers, left the tracks. The front two cars crashed into an apartment building and were reduced to a twisted mass of metal. So far it is unknown whether any occupants of the apartment building, which was only some 20 feet (3.5 meters) from the tracks, were among the dead or injured.
Japanese railways carry one of the heaviest traffic loads in the world, with an estimated 60 million people using the system every day. It is also considered one of the safest in the world. The most recent major crash occurred in 1991 when 42 people were killed and around 600 injured near the town of Shigaraki. It is the worst rail accident in Japan since a three-train crash killed 161 near Tokyo in 1963.
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