Following last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, the East Japan Railway Company has released a statement to members of the International Union of Railways.
Reports surfaced that a JR East train had been found with no surviving passengers, although the company has denied this. However, with images like these (here and here) surfacing, it is hard to believe that passengers escaped unharmed.
The statement reads:
“As you may already know, on Friday March 11 2011, Japan suffered an extremely severe earthquake, stronger than any other earthquake in Japan for as long as records have been kept.
“The earthquake caused an unbelievably large tsunami which brought destruction and especially heavy casualties to the eastern part of northern Japan along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Our station facilities, railway tracks, and rolling stock suffered enormous losses.
“As far as we know at this point, none of our customers or employees suffered casualties or serious injuries on our operating trains or at our stations. At least 3 of our regional line trains were washed off the track by the massive tsunami, but very fortunately, all the customers and our employees that were on the trains and at the stations in the devastated regions had successfully evacuated to safety. Also, no derailment was caused on our operating Shinkansen.
“However, we have not been able to confirm whether or not all of our employees who were not on duty that day and the families of all employees survived this tragedy, and we are very deeply concerned that there may be some who did not survive or have suffered injuries.
“Also, several electric generation plants (both nuclear energy plants and thermal power plants) located in the eastern part of northern Japan along the Pacific coast were heavily damaged, and since then, there has been a serious shortage of electrical power supply for train operations.
“Because of this, even in our Tokyo Metropolitan Area (within the 100 kilometer range from Tokyo), we had to cancel, suspend or reduce a great amount of our train service, including Shinkansen trains, that otherwise would have been operated. By Monday morning, March 14, for our Tokyo Metropolitan Area, we had checked our facilities and trains and were generally ready to resume normal service, starting with the first scheduled morning trains, except for the power shortage.
“In the short term, there is no clear prospect as to when this enormous shortage of electrical power supply will be over. One fortunate aspect for us is that we have two electric generation plants (a thermal power plant and a hydroelectric power plant) of our own, and we hope that, by careful management of our overall electrical power supply including purchased electricity, we will be able to expand the number of trains that can be operated in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
“On the other hand, there is absolutely no way for us to predict when we will be able to resume our train operation, both Shinkansen and conventional lines (urban and regional trains), in the regions along the Pacific Ocean coast that suffered massive casualties from the earthquake and the tsunami. In the western part of northern Japan where the damage and casualties from the earthquake and the tsunami were relatively limited, we have pretty much been able to resume our train operation on both Shinkansen and conventional lines, though a few sections are still closed.
“We are very grateful for the words of condolence and strong words of encouragements that we have been receiving since immediately after the earthquake on Friday, from many of the members of UIC. We would like to express our sincere and heartfelt thanks to all our friends around the world who share with us the same ‘spirit of the railway men and women.’
“The realities in front of our eyes are extremely harsh and difficult for us. But we must not look away from those realities. We must be strong and accept them as they are with our firm determination, gather our courage, and make our full concerted efforts for the earliest possible recovery and to fully resume our train operation. And whatever the situation may be, we will continue to thoroughly pursue our most important management policies of ‘safety’ and ‘customer satisfaction.’
“By sending out full and accurate information to our friends around the world about what we experienced through this tragedy, we will continue to aim for even greater contributions towards the development of railways around the world.
“Although we expect it will take a very significant amount of time for the full recovery of our railway system, starting from May, we are planning to be able to resume welcoming visitors from abroad. We are also planning to host the meetings and seminars in May as originally had been planned.
“Finally, and once again, we would sincerely like to ask for your very kind and even deeper understanding and cooperation. And through this occasion, it is our true wish to be able to strengthen our relationships even more than before. “