Startling scene unfolds at Shinjuku Station.
With well over a million people passing through the facility every day, Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station isn’t just the busiest station in Japan, but the entire world. Nevertheless, things are usually pretty orderly inside the rail hub, thanks to its wide, brightly lit passageways and dozens of exits keeping the flow of passengers in and out smooth and relatively free of congestion.
But a sudden disruption occurred on the afternoon of August 28 when blinding clouds of thick smoke began spreading through Shinjuku Station.
火事？？ #新宿駅 https://t.co/V4L1RI4gF0—
向日葵 (@sunflower1110_) August 28, 2017
あらげ (@ar3k34w) August 28, 2017
Shinjuku’s numerous platforms are connected by a network of corridors both above and below the boarding areas. Shortly before 2:30, clouds of smoke appeared on both platforms and pedestrian passages, prompting a partial evacuation of the facility.
新宿が煙でやばくて、避難させられてた。 私服の人が警察バッチ見せて、避難誘導しててリスペクト https://t.co/O868QKGH1z—
いとみず(￣･Θ･￣) (@patakun3310) August 28, 2017
新宿駅なう 煙すごい https://t.co/oE6bh7Ftef—
ちょうのたくみ (@LWY783KNma1aqyL) August 28, 2017
Some startled witnesses suspected a fire, and it’s likely a few with longer memories had their minds leap back to the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack of 1995.
鈴木貴大@R.S.T.C.「魔笛」 (@sattunsattun) August 28, 2017
麺と猫と何か (@mightyobstacle) August 28, 2017
火災じゃないらしいが新宿駅構内煙ヤバイ。気分悪し(￣▽￣;) 山手線運休してる。 https://t.co/KDECMwytg5—
sicky (@grayrabbit0526) August 28, 2017
Thankfully, the actual reason for the clouds of smoke turned out to be nothing so destructive or sinister. Rail operator Japan Railways is currently in the middle of a construction project that will add a new subterranean pedestrian walkway connecting the east and west sides of Shinjuku Station. At 100 meters (328 feet) long and 25 meters wide, the new tunnel is a huge undertaking, which requires some huge machinery. A piece of equipment designed to gather and clear rubble from the tunnel tipped over and began emitting smoke, leading to the frightening-looking scenes shown here.
最悪 新宿駅山手線ホーム 火事？煙やばくて避難～ https://t.co/PJGD7cm0CW—
💙こみちゃん(´◉◞౪◟◉｀)코미치 (@komichan2717) August 28, 2017
カピバラ（岡崎) (@kapi_desu) August 28, 2017
やば 新宿煙でて避難だって https://t.co/PHcsXaiRM5—
小宅 (@_____Peyangu) August 28, 2017
Luckily, the construction accident occurred at a time of day when the station is at just about its least crowded, avoiding the panic that could have occurred had this taken place during rush hour. Train service was temporarily delayed but has since been restored, and no injuries or other ailments have been reported in connection with the incident.