Workers clear railway crash as toll rises to 107

Workers hauled away mangled railway cars on Saturday as they cleaned up the site of Japan’s worst train crash in four decades, while police said the death toll rose to 107 after a woman pulled from the wreckage several days ago died.

Also, the train’s operator said it would consider revising its tight timetable to ease the pressure on drivers. Investigators believe the driver of the train that crashed Monday was speeding right before the derailment to make up time.

The front cars of the train, which workers had to pry loose from the apartment building it plowed into, were transported to a warehouse, where investigators continued their probe into the crash, said Hyogo state police spokesman Tomohiro Okubo.

On Monday, the West Japan Railway Co. commuter train skipped the tracks at Amagasaki, an industrial city about 250 miles west of Tokyo, and slammed into the apartment house. Of the roughly 580 passengers, 107 people died and more than 460 others were injured.

A 46-year-old woman, who was among the last survivors rescued early Tuesday, died at a hospital Saturday, Hyogo police said.


Lack of alternatives carries Blair in polls

He’s loathed by sections of his own party, has been heckled by voters and accused of lying over the Iraq war. Yet Prime Minister Tony Blair heads into the final days of Britain’s election campaign leading the polls — thanks in part to alienated Labour Party stalwarts who will hold their noses and vote for him anyway.

The war opponents nonetheless value the Labour government’s increased spending on education and health; some disappointed by the party’s shift to the center simply see no attractive alternative in the vote on May 5.

Blair’s fortunes also have been bolstered by the unpopularity of the main opposition Conservatives, who dominated British politics for most of the 20th century. Under Margaret Thatcher, who championed individual initiative and the free market, the party command was unassailable.

But throughout the 1990s its popularity slipped, because of an unpopular new local tax, internal feuding over European integration, an economic recession and repeated sleaze scandals.

Blair’s credibility has been badly dented by the war and accusations that his government exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.


Civilians, militants killed in airstrike

Warplanes attacked a rebel camp in a Taliban-haunted province of central Afghanistan, killing three civilians including a child as well as four suspected militants, the U.S. military said Saturday.

In another sign of instability, protesters in the western city of Herat shouted anti-American slogans and demanded the return of an ousted regional strongman, a day after a woman and her daughter were shot dead in unrest.

The airstrike by U.S.-led coalition forces Friday came during a two-day offensive against insurgents in Uruzgan province, the U.S. military statement said.

Four militants, an Afghan woman, an Afghan man and a child were killed, the statement said. Two more children were wounded and taken to a U.S. base for treatment, it said.

Afghan officials and human rights groups have complained repeatedly about civilian casualties in American-led military operations, saying heavy-handed tactics could stoke sympathy for militants who have maintained a stubborn insurgency since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.


Resolution planned on Security Council

In its bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council, Japan will submit to the council a resolution calling for expansion of the body’s membership — jointly with Germany, Italy and Brazil in June, Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura said Friday.

The resolution will be submitted by the so-called G-4, four countries that all aspire to be permanent members of the Security Council, Machimura said at a gathering of 165 U.N. member countries at a New York hotel.

“We would soon like to have consultations with each of the countries toward submitting the resolution to open the way for a — Security Council reform, which is long overdue,” he said.

Machimura also said he was ready to have “broad consultations” with as many — countries as necessary to reflect their views in the resolution.

The resolution calls for an expansion of both permanent and nonpermanent membership of the Security Council and names no particular country as a candidate to be included.