Train passengers stranded by snow in Niigata

Around 430 passengers in Niigata Prefecture were forced to spend the night on a packed four-car train after it got stranded Thursday evening by heavy snow along the Sea of Japan coast. The train, which was bound for Nagaoka from Niigata, resumed service Friday morning about 15 hours after getting stuck.

"I was standing and looking down the entire time", said a woman who came out of the train around 4:40 a.m. when her family arrived.

According to the Niigata branch of East Japan Railway Co., the four-car train - which departed Niigata Station and was bound for Nagaoka Station in the prefecture - was forced to stop on a section between Tokoji and Obiori stations Thursday night due to snow that had accumulated on the railway. "I just want to sleep", said a male passenger.

Many people had to stand because the train was so crowded.

The train was stuck in Sanjo city, about 300km northwest of Tokyo. "The operator kept saying the train would start moving, but they were wrong".

Transport minister Keiichi Ishii said he instructed the railway to investigate why it took so long to help the passengers and resume service. JR East also said it thought using taxis and other vehicles to transport hundreds of passengers would be too time-consuming.

A spokesman for the railway company said that passengers, many of whom had no seats to sit on, were advised not to get off and walk to the station, about 1km away, for safety reasons.

Two following trains also halted, leaving an additional 400 passengers temporarily stranded, but they were later transported by buses. There have been no reports of injuries or people falling ill, according to local authorities.