Image: Derailed train
Akiko Matsushita  /  AP
Investigators inspect the wrecked cars of an express train after its derailment in Shonai, Japan on Monday. Four were killed and 32 injured when the train skidded off the track Sunday.
updated 12/27/2005 8:28:25 PM ET 2005-12-28T01:28:25

The death toll in a train derailment in northern Japan rose to five as rescuers searched the snow-covered wreck Wednesday, following reports that more passengers could be trapped inside.

All six cars of the train — reportedly traveling up to 60 mph — derailed Sunday in rural Yamagata prefecture, 180 miles north of Tokyo, during a blizzard. The first three cars flipped onto their sides and skidded along the snow embankment.

Authorities had earlier concluded that four people died, but renewed their search for victims after reports said three other passengers were missing. Workers later spotted the head and shoulder of a passenger, who was later confirmed dead, police said.

The president of East Japan Railway Co., operator of the ill-fated express train, visited the crash site Tuesday to lay flowers for the dead, and the government called for a review of railway lines vulnerable to strong wind gusts.

Passengers said they saw a woman in her 30s with her young daughter, but that neither had appeared among the dead or rescued.

The derailment raised questions about why the train was traveling when high-speed winds were registered in the area.

The wreck followed a major train accident on April 25 in Amagasaki in western Japan that killed 107 people and injured more than 500 others — Japan’s worst since 1963.

Takeshi Kakiuchi, the president of West Japan Railway Co., the company operating that train, announced separately Tuesday that he would resign to take responsibility for the April crash. Company chairman Shojiro Nanya will also resign, company spokesman Makoto Masamoto said.

High speed was blamed in that crash, and an investigation showed drivers under pressure to stick to timetables sometimes run trains too fast.

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