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Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Mystery Of The Lost Shinkansen

Y'know... after the March 11, 2011 disaster hit Japan, I had heard rumors of a Shinkansen (bullet train) having been lost when the tsunami hit.

For example, here's an actual report from that time period... the name of the newspaper is unimportant, at this time:
NOBIRU, Japan — A high-speed bullet passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for Friday in tsunami-hit coastal Japan, according to Kyodo News.
The East Japan Railway Co. train was running near Nobiru Station on the Senseki Line connecting Sendai to Ishinomaki when a massive quake hit, triggering a 10-meter (33-foot) tsunami, the report said. A large number of tourists [One report put the number of missing at 400 — LD] are feared drowned after the bullet train was believed to be caught in the tsunami.
Now... this is what I had heard back on March 12, 2011... but I admit that at that time I was - as I'm sure most people were  - bombarded by media overflow on the whole earthquake and tsunami news... so much so that I admit that I lost track of this story. No pun intended.

Now... while there are reports - confirmed - that some of the commuter trains were hit, I thought it unlikely that a shinkansen train could actually be hit by a tsunami.

From what I recalled, shinkansen bullet trains in the north part of Japan are not run alongside the coast. In fact... it's pretty much done in the middle of the land...

Yes... the Shinkansen line does run up past Sendai (which was rocked hard)... but it's not that close to the coast. Of course... a small section of track heading up to Sendai from Tokyo does loop close to the sea, and it was amongst the hardest hit areas... so it was possible that a Shinkansen was hit by a tsunami.

Intercity trains in the area do tend to follow the coast a bit more closely and the odds were in favor of at least one being hit....

But... despite reports to the contrary, only yesterday did I discover that no shinkansen was hit. That's good, because it means at least 400 people less were hurt or killed.

Now... I present this story just to show how rumors and other unsubstantiated tales can often create a mess when news is presented.

It wasn't until March 19, 2011 when a story was written and probably buried under the rest of the horror stories out there - so I obviously missed it.

The story discussed the rumors of a number of trains having gone missing... possibly swept out to sea... but admits that no one could state with any veracity that the story was true or not true.

But... didn't anyone ask the East Japan Railway Company (EJRC) is the story was true? Maybe. But maybe they themselves didn't know if it were true or not considering communications were a mess. Or... maybe the media was less interested in the story if no one actually died... as seems the case.

While the EJRC admits that several trains were swept from the tracks - holy crap! - they did state before the tsunami hit, they had evacuated the train of its passengers and crew.

As well, the EJRC says none of its bullet trains were hot by the tsunami.

Do you ever wonder how rumors get started?

Andrew Joseph

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