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Train operator criticized after derailment, fire

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Japan is a great place to be when things are running smoothly, and things usually do run very smoothly. Not so when there is an accident or calimity of some kind. Take control! Save yourself! Don't wait for action by officials. Because calimity is rare, officials have no experience dealing with them.

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One passenger whose face was covered in black soot told public broadcaster NHK that he climbed out of the train while the staff was still figuring out what to do

...sounds familiar..

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Because calamity is rare, officials have no experience dealing with them.

shinjukuboy: Dead wrong! The delay was caused by the stupefying bureaucratic nature of Japan's follow-the-manual groupthink mentality, plain and simple.

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Don't wait for action by officials. Because calimity is rare, officials have no experience dealing with them.

simple translation : all risks on your account.

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God, I could just imagine them looking for through their JR manuals for the pages on 'evacuating the train'

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Of course there will always be limitations on citizens as well as government responders, no matter how well prepared, when a truly catastrophic event occurs. But I do think it is safe to say that for a variety of reasons the Japanese people are incredibly unprepared for unforeseen disasters.

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@seesaw2 - Sounds very familiar. But after living here for 15 years it doesn't surprise me. It's how the children are raised in the schools, here. They are taught to follow, rather than think independently. That's why when my family saw the fire at Daiichi we bailed from Tohoku (and are still being blackballed for it.)

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They didn't know how to evacuate because they've never been trained to evacuate at train. There may be a procedure, but they don't drill it, like airlines do. They likely suspect there's no need to ever evacuate a train.

Of course, I'd equally blame the passengers who sat around like passive doves waiting to be told what to do while the train caught fire.

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shinjukuboy is basically right. While it isn't true officials here have no experience dealing with emergencies, ad hoc leadership and decision making aren't in Japanese DNA.

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Of course, I'd equally blame the passengers who sat around like passive doves waiting to be told what to do while the train caught fire.

Put yourself in their shoes. They probably didn't know what was going on. Its not normal for people to panic and start breaking windows because of some unknown smoke without someone in authority to tell you to. Once there's fire, sure.

Sounds to me like its some bad leadership by the company and the train conductor.

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Classic example here where J-thinking breaks down, I have been saying for years the J-pop needs to be drilled in the area of common sense!

And yes the passengers are also to blame, damn you see or smell smoke, DUH, time to evacuate, all cars have emergency handles to open doors, some windows can be popped out.

Smorkian I hope if you have kids you dont teach them to sit tight while smoke engulfs the home, in case you donrt know MANY die from breathing in smoke before the fire gets there!!!!

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Smorkian I hope if you have kids you dont teach them to sit tight while smoke engulfs the home, in case you donrt know MANY die from breathing in smoke before the fire gets there!!!!

How do you know the passengers were sitting while smoke engulfed the train? There was some smoke, and the passengers did get off the train, presumably as the smoke was getting thicker.

People are assuming everybody sat docilely waiting for death. Why would you assume that? Who knows what it was like in there, or what the timeline was? Its totally unclear from this article, only that the staff delayed, so why criticize the passengers?

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Smorkian, this:

One passenger whose face was covered in black soot told public broadcaster NHK that he climbed out of the train while the staff was still figuring out what to do. Another said he could barely breathe and thought he would suffocate if he waited longer for official instructions.

This is an indication passengers waited too long, or at least some, the article certainly to me leads one to think the passengers were largely waiting to be told what to do, which jives with what I have experienced in my many yrs here.

Bottom line is you dont wait when smoke is filling a confined area, yOU GET THE HELL OUT SOON AS.

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This is an indication passengers waited too long, or at least some, the article certainly to me leads one to think the passengers were largely waiting to be told what to do

It could also mean they were confused as to what to do and were in the back near the fire. It could also mean the fire spread quickly.

which jives with what I have experienced in my many yrs here.

Means nothing, as neither you nor I were there, nor is there enough information in the article to do anything other than assume.

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I agree with both ben and shinjukuboy. Seize your moment yourself.

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Trying to evacuate a train is difficult and dangerous under the best of circumstances. I agree there needs to be a well-drilled protocol for conducting emergency exits in an orderly manner. It is pretty obvious that the possibility of fire in a confined space is going to provoke disorientation and panic no matter how well employees know the plans, and are comfortable with making critical decisions with limited and conflicting information,

When this happens in the US, where people generally take things into their own hands without thinking twice, I can also guarantee a period of chaos/low communication from officials, passengers panic, run to the back, hurdle seats, push open doors at the first sign of smoke making a return to the station impossible, crowd rushes out. continues their struggle on the platform...injuries very likely to result.

Operators will still be criticized for failing to take control of the situation and standing by instead of helping passengers evacuate.

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Smorkian: "People are assuming everybody sat docilely waiting for death."

I don't see a single person assuming that. What I see is a whole lot of people, some apologists excepted, saying that people waited for those responsible to DO SOMETHING, but those responsible were probably busy trying to form a panel to talk about what to do. They weren't 'waiting to die', they were waiting to be told what to do, as the people in charge were probably hoping would they would be told. It seems that in pretty much every facet of this society completely irresponsible people are put into positions of power and ignore the possibility of disasters, and of course, when they inevitably occur have not 'been told' how to deal with it.

"It could also mean they were confused as to what to do and were in the back near the fire. It could also mean the fire spread quickly."

Don't backtrack -- you claimed there is no proof people were sitting in smoke, and yet there quite clearly is.

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Similar behavior can be observed in many fire situations. Even with fire alarms going off people will often linger on using cellphones calling up their friends or families or log on to the net looking for more information, spend time collecting their belonging, or wait around for further instructions, rather than just leaving the premesis in the fastest most efficient manner. Or it could be the case that escape routes are physically clogged insufficient or not well-known by the public.

There is more to evacuation than a simplistic view of black and white some posters here seems to see.

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Don't backtrack -- you claimed there is no proof people were sitting in smoke, and yet there quite clearly is.

There most clearly isn't - if you can get that from this small article then you have insane powers of subtext interpretation. The details aren't there.

People were covered in soot and suffered smoke inhalation, which is consistent with a quickly spreading fire - a more like occurrence than people sitting on their bum waiting for conductor-san to tell them what to do. It's insulting.

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The sheeple effect was overridden by self preservation thankfully. Glad they all got out ok. Only a couple of idiots tried balck balling me n my family for leaving tohoku... They won't do that again cause I used my bus coming analogy.

Ps. I thought this was a "break down"

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Railway officials apologized Saturday for the delay.

Crisis management 101 in Japan. Wait as long as you can before doing something, and then apologize for not doing something sooner. And, smorkian, as usual you are only basing your comments on what is here on JT. On NHK last night, and in this morning's paper there were many more details.

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And, smorkian, as usual you are only basing your comments on what is here on JT.

The article is what's given to comment on. What are these 'many more details'? Video of people sitting like sheep? I'm sure whatever it was it was something to reinforce your always negative perception of Japanese people.

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something to reinforce your always negative perception of Japanese people.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with the great majority of the posters in this forum, when it comes to lack of common sense, japanese are at the top. Acting and thinking like "sheep" is part of their DNA. Shameful.

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Smorkian -- nice try. NHK did not paint a pretty picture of JR Hokkaido's handling of the situation, based on interviews with several passengers. But if you choose to judge Japan based solely on shortened versions of stories on JT, that is your choice. It just indicates what value anyone should put on your opinions. And, yes, I am generally "negative" about developments here in Japan. Not about the people, as you state, but on the dumbed-down, rapidly-deteriorating society government and the corporate heirarchy has allowed to hinder those people. I guess you can't understand the difference.

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the dumbed-down, rapidly-deteriorating society government and the corporate heirarchy has allowed to hinder those people.

Sounds like just about anywhere else in the world. And by blaming the whole nation for this incident, you are already proving that you have just a little knowledge, education or experience in the complexity of fire prepardedness.

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But if you choose to judge Japan based solely on shortened versions of stories on JT, that is your choice.

Unlike a lot of posters here I don't judge anything based on the stories here on JT. That is my exact point, and thank you for making it for me.

My perceptions of Japan and Japanese people are based on the years I have lived here and the people I have known, worked with, and enjoyed life with. And I take an extremely cynical view to these 'Oh, Japanese people are x!' type of comments. No group of people is 'x'.

It's foolish to make generalizations based on a small article (or several articles, or a news report on TV) when you only get the perspective that is given to you. I'm certainly not going to make a sweeping indictment on Japanese society based on an article about a train derailment and fire. But if you choose to based on your reading of this article, the Daily Yomiuri, and NHK I guess that's up to you.

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I agree totally with ben4short:

The delay was caused by the stupefying bureaucratic nature of Japan's follow-the-manual groupthink mentality, plain and simple.

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