Japanese train crash: death toll rises to 5

Rescuers recovered another body on Tuesday at the scene of a weekend accident in northern Japan in which an express train derailed in winter winds, bringing the death toll to five, local officials said. The body was found under a derailed carriage after police and fire fighters searched for three missing people who it is feared may have been on the train, the officials said. "One body was found under the derailed train," said a fire department official near the scene of the accident in northern Japan.

The accident on Sunday evening also injured 32 passengers. Police in Yamagata prefecture said earlier on Tuesday they had received information that two women and a girl had been missing since the accident and may have been on the train.

"We have been unable to confirm their safety," a police spokesman said. The six-carriage train left the tracks and crashed into a farm building after apparently encountering high winds near a bridge over a river in Yamagata on Sunday. The president of East Japan Railway Co. <9020.T>, which operates the line, placed flowers at the crash site on Tuesday.

"I realised again it was a serious accident. I offer my condolences," Mutsutake Otsuka said. He did not say if he would resign over the accident.

Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa was to inspect the scene of the accident later in the day, Kyodo news agency said. In April this year, the nation's worst train crash in more than 40 years killed 107 people and injured more than 500 in Amagasaki, western Japan, when a train jumped the tracks and smashed into an apartment complex.

The train operator, West Japan Railway Co. <9021.T>, said on Tuesday that its president, Takeshi Kakiuchi, would resign as of Feb. 1 to take responsibility for the accident. He will be succeeded by Vice President Masao Yamazaki.

That derailment caused a scandal when it emerged that the 23-year-old train driver, who was among those killed, had been under heavy pressure from his employers over previous incidents in which his trains had been late. On the day of the accident he appeared to be trying to make up lost time after overshooting a previous station, putting the train more than a minute behind schedule, reports Reuters. I.L.

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