Two dead in Japan bullet train suicide

Rescue workers carrying a passenger from the Shinkansen bullet train after it made an emergency stop in Odawara, south of Tokyo.
Rescue workers carrying a passenger from the Shinkansen bullet train after it made an emergency stop in Odawara, south of Tokyo.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Two passengers on a Japanese Shinkansen bullet train died after one of them set himself ablaze, in an unprecedented incident on a network with an enviable safety record.

The motive for the incident was not immediately clear, but it left 26 others injured after the man sprayed himself in flammable liquid and sparked a cigarette lighter at the front of the train as it hurtled through the countryside around 70km south-west of Tokyo.

The train, which was travelling from Tokyo to the western city of Osaka, had about 1,000 passengers.

It made an emergency stop after smoke filled at least one carriage.

SHOCKING SCENE

This person had a whole petrol container and (he) sprayed liquid across the seats... and then all over himself. Then he set himself on fire. Fire spread all over the place immediately.

A WOMAN PASSENGER, who told broadcaster TBS about the man who set himself ablaze, killing himself and another passenger, and injuring 26 people

"This person had a whole petrol container and (he) sprayed liquid across the seats... and then all over himself. Then he set himself on fire," a woman passenger told broadcaster TBS. "Fire spread all over the place immediately."

Another passenger said he had spoken to the man moments before he set himself on fire. "He told me, 'Go to the back, it's dangerous.' "

One report identified the man as a 71-year-old who had tried giving other passengers money before setting himself ablaze.

A female passenger also died, a police official said. The cause of her death was not officially determined, but it could have been from smoke inhalation, he said.

Fire department officials said the injured passengers were affected by heat, smoke and other causes.

TBS footage showed a train carriage filled with smoke and passengers scrambling to get out, pressing handkerchiefs to their faces. One person was clutching a baby.

The train was moved to a nearby station where the passengers disembarked on a platform crowded with photographers, police and fire officials.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2015, with the headline 'Two dead in Japan bullet train suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe