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Tokyo Subway Derails; 3 Killed

March 8, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ Two subway trains carrying more than 1,500 rush-hour commuters collided when one of the trains derailed Wednesday, killing three people and injuring more than 30 others.

The impact sheared off the wall of one of the train’s rear cars, ripping out the cushioned seats. Buckled metal and other debris littered the scene.

``I saw a huge lump of metal penetrating my car, and everybody was panicking,″ a 21-year-old commuter told national broadcaster NHK. ``Many passengers were collapsing.″

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, said spokesman Ryuichi Kinoshita of the Tokyo Rapid Transit Authority. An initial press report blamed the accident on an explosion, but officials _ including the prime minister _ quickly denied that.

There were 240 passengers on the train that derailed, and 1,300 on the oncoming train that hit it, the fire department estimated. One of three passengers in critical condition died in a hospital hours after the accident. A man and a woman were killed in the collision.

Sachie Uehara, a subway spokeswoman, said the derailed train was moving at less than 25 mph. The other train was reducing its speed before arriving at the station, and was probably traveling at a similar speed, she said.

She said two of the dead _ a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s _ were in the car at the end of the derailed train. Two cars in the midsection of the sideswiped train were also heavily damaged, with their sides torn off and interiors exposed.

Most injured passengers were riding in the last car of the derailed train and the third and fourth cars of the inbound train, she said.

In the hours after the morning accident, hundreds of curious people crowded around the site near the opening of a tunnel or peered at the wreck from rooftops.

Police cordoned off the busy thoroughfare near Nakameguro station in western Tokyo, causing a massive traffic jam. Hundreds of workers in hardhats and yellow jackets swarmed around the accident.

Kyodo News agency reported that the train had been derailed by an explosion inside one of the cars. But Tadao Ando, an official with the Cabinet’s Crisis Management Office, said there was no evidence of sabotage or any criminal act in the accident.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi also denied an explosion was involved, Kyodo News agency reported. Obuchi’s Cabinet set up a task force to deal with the accident.

Commuters who stopped to look at the wreckage expressed alarm.

``It’s unbelievable,″ said Katsuo Yoshida, a 50-year-old company worker. ``I’m worried that there will be more serious accidents as computers are relied on more heavily in the train system.″

Service was soon resumed on some parts of the subway line, but throughout the morning tens of thousands of passengers were directed to use other trains or buses to get to work.

The accident was believed to be the worst in Tokyo since late 1988, when a train rammed into the rear of another stopped at a station during rush-hour, killing two and injuring 92. In May 1991, a crowded tourist train slammed head-on into a local train in western Japan, killing 42 people and injuring 415.

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