Swiss rail crash injures 42, kills one Japanese tourist

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A popular Swiss tourist train carrying mainly Japanese holidaymakers derailed in the Alps on Friday, killing one and injuring 42 others, local police said.

Police would not confirm the nationality of the deceased, but Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that the fatality was a 64-year-old Japanese woman.

She was among 14 tourists and a guide on a eight-day tour to Switzerland organised by ANA Sales Co, said the news agency, quoting All Nippon Airways.

The group was due to return to Japan next Tuesday, said the airline.

The derailed train which carried 210 passengers is the Glacier Express which links the Alpine resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, a spokesman for police in Valais canton, Jean-Marie Bornet, told AFP.

"Three wagons were derailed, two are completely laid down. In these two wagons, the passengers were mainly Japanese," he said.

Police added that the carriages affected were all first-class wagons with a maximum capacity of 30 passengers each.

Police did not give the nationality of the person who was killed, but said in a statement that between 10 and 12 of the injured were in a serious condition.

The cause of the accident remains unclear but an investigation is ongoing, police said.

Emergency services mounted a massive rescue operation, with some 15 doctors, 70 firemen, 40 policemen and 11 ambulances dispatched to the scene.

Nine helicopters helped to ferry the injured to hospitals in the Valais canton.

Some of the injured were also taken to hospitals in the western Swiss cities of Lausanne and Geneva, added police.

Others in the train were taken to a nearby village where they were able to board buses to continue on their journey.

Rail traffic in the affected route remains closed and experts are to decide on Saturday if it could be reopened, Thomas Werlen, a spokesman of the train operator Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn told AFP.

The derailed train is "very new," said the spokesman.

"The train stock is about two to three years old," he said, adding that there were no indications on the reasons for the accident or on the nationalities of the victims.

The Glacier Express, which travels through 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, is touted by its operator as the "most famous railway in the world."

It starts at Zermatt, the mountain village with spectacular views of Matterhorn -- one of Switzerland's most famous peak, and arrives at either Davos or St Moritz about seven hours later.

Rail accidents are rare in Switzerland, a country which prides itself on trains that run on time.

The last fatal train accident in the country occurred in May 2006, during which three men were killed when a track maintenance train collided into another due to a fault in the brakes.

The most serious train disaster happened 112 years ago. In June 1891, a train bridge collapsed, killing 71 people and leaving 171 others injured.

© 2010 AFP

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