TOKYO — Saboteurs firebombed a train station and sliced railroad communications cables today, paralyzing commuter rail lines in the Tokyo area and creating chaos for up to 10 million travelers, officials said.
Acts of vandalism were reported at the same time in six other parts of the nation, including the cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, but with less serious impact on rail service, the government-run Japan National Railways reported.
No injuries were reported in any of the incidents. The national police said 48 people, including a leader of a radical leftist group, were arrested in connection with the sabotage.
Sympathy for Strike
Tadashi Ito, a spokesman for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, said the wrecking apparently was done in sympathy with striking railway employees. But a union official denied any link.
The employees are opposed to plans to make the deficit-ridden government train system private, drastically cutting its work force.
Police searched the headquarters of both the union and the leftist group, the Chukaku-ha, or Middle Core Faction, but did not say if anything was found.
National Police Agency officials said signal and communications lines were cut in 34 locations near Tokyo and Osaka. About 4 million commuters each morning use the Japan National Railways lines serving Tokyo, a city of 12 million.
Transport Minister Tokuo Yamashita said the disruptions affected about 10 million people in the Tokyo area and about 830,000 in Osaka in the course of the day.
However, railway spokesman Takashi Miyashiro estimated the number affected at 6.5 million people. Some service was restored on all affected lines in time for the evening rush hour, he said.
Another railway spokesman, Mikio Takahashi, said the sabotage began at 3:20 a.m., when underground cables were cut in the Tokyo area.
At the same time, three railway signal boxes in Osaka were burned, Takahashi said. The other incidents occurred in the cities of Hiroshima and Kyoto, and in Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures adjoining Tokyo.
22 Commuter Lines
Altogether, officials were forced to halt service on 22 commuter lines, including 20 in the Tokyo area.