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49 dead as Japanese train derails

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A commuter train crashed into an apartment building has killed at least 37 people, and injured more than 200

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- In Japan's deadliest rail accident in more than 40 years, a commuter train went off the tracks during Monday morning rush hour outside Osaka in central Japan, killing 49 people and injuring more than 200 others, many seriously, authorities said.

Police and fire officials said they feared the death toll will go higher after the rush-hour collision.

The first three cars of the seven-car train operated by West Japan Rail went off the tracks around 9:20 a.m. (8:20 p.m. EDT), slamming into several vehicles and an apartment building.

Police said 580 people were on board at the time of the accident. Several people remain trapped in the wreckage, including the driver.

It was unclear if the train hit the cars before or after derailing.

Railway officials said the driver of the train is in grave condition.

He had less than a year of experience on the job, but was accompanied by a conductor, who was a 15-year veteran, they said.

The railway is investigating reports that the train was running more than a minute late on the Japanese train system that normally functions like clockwork, before speeding through the final station ahead of the accident.

Japan is home to one of the world's most complex and heavily traveled rail networks, but such derailings are rare.

An earthquake in 2004 caused a bullet train to derail -- the first since the high speed trains went into service 40 years ago.

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