LEAD: Swiss police begin probe into deadly train accident
Saturday, July 24, 2021 9:47 AM

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GENEVA, Jul. 24, 2010 (Kyodo News International) --
(Editors: ADDING FIGURES COMPILED BY JAPANESE TOUR OPERATORS IN 3RD GRAF, INFO IN 4TH GRAF)

Swiss police began an investigation Saturday into a train accident that occurred a day before in the alpine canton of Valais in southern Switzerland, in which a 64-year-old Japanese woman died and 40 others, mostly Japanese tourists, were injured.

In a statement released Saturday morning, the Valais police said 40 individuals required treatment in Geneva, Lausanne and local hospitals, 28 of them Japanese.

According to three Japanese travel companies, 77 Japanese -- 74 tourists and three tour conductors -- were on a tour on the train, with one dead and 26 injured. Of the injured, two women from Yokohama and Chiba Prefecture, aged 71 and 62, respectively, were in critical condition and remain unconscious.

Relatives of Japanese tourists involved in the accident departed Japan on Saturday for Switzerland.

Local police said the cause of the accident, which occurred between the villages of Fiesch and Lax while about 210 people were on the train, was not immediately known and would be investigated.

''For the time being there are no hypotheses'' as to the cause of the accident, a police spokesperson told Kyodo News.

He said the cause was difficult to determine as the train derailed on a small incline during a light turn.

''It's still much too early. The train will have to be examined by an expert'' before any conclusions could be made, he said.

In Japan, ANA Sales Co., a tour operator affiliated with All Nippon Airways Co., said a 64-year-old woman from Osaka died during the accident when three cars of the six-car Glacier Express derailed and the last two cars overturned at 11:50 a.m. Friday.

The company said that she was part of a group of 14 and one guide which had booked an eight-day tour of Switzerland through the company.

Officials from the Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn, the company which runs the rail service, told Kyodo News it was one of the worst train accidents in its 80-year history.

Also in Japan, JTB Corp., another tour operator, said 22 people on one of its tours were involved in the accident. Seventeen were transported to hospitals and 12 of them required hospitalization, including a 60-year-old woman from Nagano Prefecture who sustained a broken bone.

The tourists on both the ANA Sales and JTB tours were mostly aged 50 or older. ANA Sales said local staffers and a London-based employee are heading to the accident site, and that it is making arrangements to dispatch staff from Tokyo if needed.

''It's extremely regrettable that such an accident occurred and we would like to express our condolences'' to the victim and her family, ANA Sales President Osamu Asakawa said Saturday in a press conference in Tokyo.

Hankyu Travel International Co. said 40 people on its tour were on the derailed train and one of them suffered an injury to his head while the others, who were not on any of the derailed cars, were left unhurt.

The injured person was a 60-year-old man who had apparently moved to one of the cars that went off the tracks to take photographs, the company said.

Local police said that at least three of the injured had to be evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in Geneva and Lausanne.

At least 150 people were involved in the rescue operation, a police spokesman told Kyodo News.

In a statement, the company which runs the train line, expressed its condolences to the families.

Thomas Werlen, head of corporate communications, told Kyodo News that some work was done in June on the tracks ''around'' where the accident occurred, but the company was still unsure whether it was at the same place.

Local media in Switzerland pointed to the possibility that the rails might have been distorted by a sudden temperature change, saying the weather cooled down abruptly during the past several days following hot days. The French-language daily Tribune de Geneve said in its online edition that a number of passengers rushed to one side of the train trying to take landscape pictures just prior to the derailment.

The Glacier Express, which has an average speed of 30 kilometers per hour, is famed for its stunning views of the Swiss Alps. Its 7.5-hour journey, in cars with specially fitted large windows, begins in Zermatt and crosses the Swiss Alps to luxury sky resort St. Moritz.

 

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