A power outage hit a bullet train running north of Tokyo on Tuesday morning, forcing other shinkansen services in eastern and central Japan to be suspended and leaving those connecting to Tokyo halted throughout the day, resulting in the cancellation of 282 trains and affecting about 97,600 people, their operator said.

Sections of the Tohoku, Joetsu and Hokuriku shinkansen lines were affected after a 12-car bullet train crossed a section of track in Saitama Prefecture where an overhead electrical wire was hanging down and lost power, East Japan Railway Co. said. The train came to a stop around 10 a.m.

The operator said it expects to resume normal operations starting Wednesday, with the possibility of delays or suspensions depending on the progress of the repair work.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter shows passengers walking by the train tracks after deboarding a shinkansen bullet train in Saitama, near Tokyo, on Jan. 23, 2024. (Kyodo)
Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter shows a shinkansen bullet train that has stopped on the tracks in Saitama, near Tokyo, on Jan. 23, 2024. (Kyodo)

As the company worked to resume services, two individuals involved with the repair work were taken to hospital following an explosion near the location of the fallen wire, local police said. One of them sustained severe burns, according to JR East.

The Hokuriku line's Kagayaki train suffered damage to two pantographs and a window, along with structures on the tracks, including metal parts supporting the wire, the operator said.

Around 350 passengers disembarked from the train onto the tracks and were safely guided to the ground using emergency stairs by around 1:30 p.m. The operator reported that no one sustained injuries or complained of health issues.

"I heard big sounds and thought it was another earthquake," said Yoshiko Horii from Toyama Prefecture, one of the areas rocked by the magnitude 7.6 quake on New Year's Day, who was on a shinkansen train bound for Tokyo when it was halted.

"I was surprised. I am glad we could leave the train," said the 74-year-old Horii after descending from the train using the emergency stairs.

A display at JR Kanazawa Station shows information on the suspension of shinkansen bullet train services on Jan. 23, 2024, due to a power outage. (Kyodo)

Many passengers, including tourists, were forced to suddenly change their travel schedules after JR East said a restart would take "considerable time."

In JR stations affected by the suspensions, people lined up to speak with station staff or to apply for ticket changes after announcements about major delays were made.

"There's nothing we can do," said Ryuji Sekine, 33, who was in the northeast city of Sendai for a business trip from Tokyo and planned to go on to Niigata Prefecture. "If services are suspended in the afternoon, then I'll have no choice but to stay in Sendai tonight," he said.

A 68-year-old woman from Sendai said after arriving in Tokyo, "My train stopped just before Omiya (station in Saitama), and we didn't move for about 30 minutes."

"The train eventually made it to Omiya, and I ended up taking a conventional line service to Tokyo...now my plans are thrown off," she said.

Following the power outage, services were initially suspended between Tokyo and Sendai stations on the Tohoku line, Tokyo and Echigo-Yuzawa on the Joetsu line, and Tokyo and Nagano on the Hokuriku line.

From around noon, the operator started bringing back services at some of the affected sections. However, services between Tokyo and Sendai on the Tohoku line and Tokyo and Takasaki on the Joetsu and Hokuriku lines remained suspended throughout Tuesday.

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