Authorities said that on the first day of the holiday, the train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan, killing dozens of people. This was the deadliest railway disaster on the island of Taiwan in decades.
The Ministry of Transport said that on Friday morning, when the 408 Taroko Express derailed at the Qingshui Tunnel in Huairen County, it carried about 350 people. It said 36 passengers had “no signs of life”
Authorities said that the largest number of deaths were in the latter two carriages.
As the rescue operation continued into the afternoon, dozens of firefighting, search and rescue, military vehicles and more than 150 personnel were dispatched to the scene.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said that emergency services have been “fully mobilized” to rescue and assist passengers and staff. She said: “After this heartbreaking incident, we will continue to do our best to ensure their safety.”
The fire department said that 80 to 100 people had been evacuated in the first four carriages, while five to eight carriages had been “deformed” and were difficult to enter.
On the first day of a long weekend, the express train headed south towards Taitung for a traditional “tomb sweeping” holiday, and there was a lot of travel throughout the island.
The ministry stated that the train derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien City, causing some carriages to hit the wall. Some cars in the tunnel are difficult to reach, and people are still trapped.
On-site reports said that the authorities suspect that an engineering truck that was parked incorrectly slipped from a nearby road onto the train track.
A man said in a video broadcast on Taiwanese TV: “Our train hit a truck.” “The truck fell.”
Photos of the accident showed that the carriages were crumpled at the opening of the tunnel, and other carriages were torn apart or pressed against the walls of the tunnel. It appeared to be the wreckage of a truck or trailer outside.
News footage at the scene showed passengers crawling out along the roof of a carriage stuck at the entrance of the tunnel.
The 408 is one of the fastest models in Taiwan’s conventional train network, with a speed of 130 km/h. It runs along the popular east coast area, including through tunnels and bridges through the mountains and gorges near Taroko National Park.
In 2018, a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan, resulting in 18 deaths and 175 injuries. In 1981, 30 people were killed in a collision in northern Taiwan.
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