TOKYO — A 71-year-old man burned himself to death aboard a Japanese high-speed train on Tuesday in what appeared to be a deliberate act of self-immolation, the authorities and witnesses said. A second passenger on the train, a woman, also died.
The man, whose name was not made public, doused himself and parts of the train’s interior with a flammable liquid before setting himself afire with a cigarette lighter at the front of the train, just outside the driver’s compartment, witnesses told Japanese television networks.
Television images showed emergency crews and railway workers surrounding the Shinkansen bullet train, which had been bound from Tokyo to the western city of Osaka. Twenty-six people were being treated for burns and smoke inhalation, the local Fire Department said.
“I heard screams, and someone was shouting, ‘There’s a man spreading kerosene!’ ” a young woman who said she had been riding in the train’s second car told Fuji Television.
Other witnesses described moments of fear and panic as passengers in the lead car fled toward the rear or begged the man to stop. Nippon TV quoted a passenger as saying that the man appeared disoriented before he began pouring the liquid from a plastic jug. He later told at least one passenger to flee before he started the fire, Nippon TV said.
Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, initially said that passengers had reported a hearing an explosion at the rear of the lead car around the time the man set himself on fire, though it was unclear whether there had been a separate blast. A female passenger, who appeared to be in her 50s, was found lying immobile nearby and taken to a hospital. She was pronounced dead about two hours later, the Kanagawa prefectural police said; the cause of her death was unclear.
The incident occurred as the super-express train was speeding through the city of Odawara, about 50 miles southwest of Tokyo. The driver brought the train, which was carrying about 800 passengers, to an emergency stop before using a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, NHK said.
Shinkansen trains, which reach speeds of close to 190 miles per hour, have an enviable safety record: There has never been a fatal crash or derailment in the 50 years they have been operating. There have been suicides, however, mostly by people who have thrown themselves into the trains’ path. Last November, a man killed himself by climbing onto the front of one of the long-nosed lead cars and grabbing an overhead electrical wire.
Source: New York Times 2 Dead After Self-Immolation on Japanese Bullet Train