TOKYO — A 71-year-old man burned himself to death aboard a Japanese high-speed train Tuesday in what appeared to be a deliberate act of self-immolation, authorities and witnesses said.
The man, whose name was not immediately made public, doused himself and parts of the train’s interior with a flammable liquid before igniting it with a cigarette lighter at the front of the train, just outside the driver’s compartment, witnesses told Japanese television networks.
Aerial footage showed emergency crews and railway workers surrounding the Shinkansen bullet train, which had been traveling to Osaka from Tokyo. Twenty-six people were treated for injuries including burns and smoke inhalation, the local fire department said.
“I heard screams, and someone was shouting, ‘There’s a man spreading kerosene!’ ” a young woman who had been riding in the train’s second car told Fuji Television.
Witnesses described moments of fear and panic as passengers in the lead car fled toward the rear or begged the man to stop. Some reported hearing passengers shout, “There are children on board!”
Several passengers said the man had appeared disoriented and wandered up and down the aisle of the lead car before he abruptly began emptying a large plastic jug of liquid around the cabin. A woman who said she was riding in that car told Japan’s national public broadcaster, NHK, that he had inexplicably placed several 1,000 yen notes, worth about $8 each, on her tray table, saying: “I found some money. Take it.”
A woman was found lying near the back of the lead car and was taken to a hospital, where she later died. The cause of death was not immediately known.