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Natural disasters

Japan's railway danger zone: 1,900 km of track face mudslide risk

Nikkei study shows 113 km on seven bullet trains fall within disaster-prone areas

Workers tend to a train that derailed after sediment covered tracks on the Geibi line in Japan's Hiroshima Prefecture in 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Japan Transport Safety Board)   © Kyodo

TOKYO -- When the mudslide triggered by torrential rain came crashing down the hillside in Japan's coastal city of Atami this month, it made what witnesses described as a "horrible sound."

The river of earth and debris, which left at least 10 dead and 17 missing as of Tuesday, came perilously close to taking out the railway used for by the Tokaido shinkansen, the bullet train line that links Tokyo and Osaka, running under an elevated tracks. Those tracks also serve the Tokaido main line for conventional trains linking Tokyo with Kobe.

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