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Japan

Heavy snow traps over 400 passengers inside stranded train in Japan

It resumed service on Friday morning about 15 hours after it was stranded, with many passengers exhausted after standing all night in crowded cars

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 1:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 10:06pm

Around 430 passengers were forced to stay a night aboard a local train stranded since Thursday evening due to heavy snowfall in Niigata on its west coast.

According to rescuers, five of them – a man in his 40s and four women in their teens and 20s – felt unwell and the man was taken to a hospital. The train resumed service on Friday morning about 15 hours after it was stranded, with many passengers exhausted after standing all night in crowded cars.

More than half of the passengers of the four-car train on the East Japan Railway Co’s Shinetsu Line evacuated earlier in the morning with their families coming to pick them up by car.

While the operator said the train’s interior lights and heating system worked properly, it only had one bathroom requiring users to wait in a long queue and toilet paper ran out, according to passengers. Some said they took turns sitting on seats during their prolonged stay.

“I was standing and looking down the entire time,” said a woman who came out of the train around 4.40am when her family arrived. “I just want to sleep,” said a male passenger.

A 50-year-old man who came to pick up his daughter vented his anger against JR East, saying, “Tomorrow, she will sit for university entrance exams so I want her to rest as soon as possible. The operator kept saying the train would start moving, but it was wrong.”

The train bound for Nagaoka from Niigata was stranded at around 6.55pm. Thursday at a rail crossing between Tokoji and Obiori stations in the city of Sanjo, where snowfall reached 77cm around that time.

Due to delays and cancellations of train services caused by snow, the train was crowded at the time. The operator did not arrange for a free bus or taxis as alternative transport, saying it was dangerous to go outside the train as snow had accumulated on tracks.

Two following trains also came to a halt, leaving an additional 400 passengers temporarily stranded but they were later transported by buses.

Heavy snowfall also stranded some 300 vehicles near two exits of the Ban-etsu motorway in the Niigata town of Aga on Thursday evening, but they were all able to leave after about 12 hours following snow removal work.

Another 410 vehicles were temporarily stuck in the Hokuriku Expressway in Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures. There have been no reports of injuries or people falling ill, according to local authorities.