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Tokyo Subway Derails; 3 Killed

March 8, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ A rush-hour commuter train derailed today in Tokyo, colliding with an oncoming train packed with 1,300 passengers. The impact ripped away seats, killing three people.

Glass shards and gnarled metal were strewn around the accident, and the derailed train, carrying 240 passengers, had a gaping hole in its side. More than 30 people were injured.

``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 trouble began when a car in the rear of a train emerging from a tunnel derailed near the elevated Nakameguro station in western Tokyo, sideswiping another train.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known. An initial press report blamed the derailment on an explosion, but officials _ including the prime minister _ quickly denied that.

The president of Teito Rapid Transit Authority, the company that operates the derailed train, apologized for the accident.

``We will conduct a thorough investigation without delay to ensure a similar accident doesn’t happen again,″ Kiyoshi Terashima said.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has also instructed the Transport Ministry to conduct a ``thorough and speedy″ investigation, said Obuchi’s spokesman, Akitaka Saiki.

A 17-year-old boy and a woman in her twenties were killed upon impact, said fire department official Akihiko Umehara. A 37-year-old newspaper employee died after she was taken to the hospital, Umehara said. Two other passengers were in critical condition.

Sachie Uehara, a train spokeswoman, said two of the dead were in the car at the end of the derailed train, but it was unclear where the other victim was riding at the time of the accident. Two cars in the midsection of the other train were also heavily damaged.

The accident was believed to be the worst on Tokyo trains since 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.

Commuters who stopped to look at the wreckage were shocked.

``It’s unbelievable,″ said Katsuo Yoshida. ``I’m worried that there will be more serious accidents since computers are relied on more heavily in the train system.″

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