Huali, Taiwan—Crawling in the smoked wreckage, she first found her husband and son nailed under the luggage cabinet and steel clothes, but they did not breathe. Then she named her daughter. The faint voice replied: “I am here.”
After hearing the sound, Hana Kacaw found her daughter under a pile of metal train parts. She tried to pull down the wreckage, but it didn’t work. She urged: “Please wait a moment.” “Someone will rescue us.”
Ms. Kakao said, “I can’t hold on anymore,” her daughter replied. That is her last words.
On the first day of the long holiday weekend in Taiwan, the eight-car Taroko Express was almost full of passengers, about 490 passengers, including about 120 people holding station tickets. The authorities said that the train bound for the eastern city of Taitung might collided with an engineering vehicle, which slipped from a slope onto the rails, and then slammed into a tunnel.
Authorities that have guaranteed a thorough investigation said on Saturday that the suspect was interrogated and then released on bail. The government also stated that it may compensate each deceased for approximately US$190,000 in family expenses, although the amount will be determined later.
By Saturday, rescuers had saved everything they thought could survive and were using an excavator to try to pull out the train carriage. Among the five to eight trains trapped deep in the tunnel, the casualties were the greatest. Ms. Kakao used to ride the No. 8 car in the front compartment of the train, but finally she found her way out of the tunnel by herself.
After spending a sleepless night in the hotel, she and dozens of other grieving relatives had a painful and arduous task on Saturday to determine the remains and say goodbye.
They gathered at the temporary support center, which was established under a tent outside the Huayi Pavilion in Hualien City, south of the crash site. They took turns to enter the morgue, where the corpses were stored, many of them faltered and distraught. Some people discussed the funeral arrangements and reviewed the autopsy reports, and volunteers, Christian priests and monks-even President Tsai Ing-wen briefly provided comfort.
For some families, grief is complicated by uncertainty. Some relatives are frustrated that they cannot identify their relatives, but officials said they hope the DNA samples can help. Officials explained that the impact of the crash was so great and the damage was so severe that rescuers could only rescue the remains of some people in a few train cars.
Red Cross rescuer Zeng Wenlong said in an interview that pungent blood was in the air in these train cars. It was also in car number 8, where Mr. Zeng’s team found 5-year-old Yang Zhicheng. She was traveling with her sister and father and got stuck in a chair.
More than an hour has passed since the team reached her position on Friday, and she is already very weak. Zeng Fanzhi said that he had taken her to her father Max Yang. Max Yang leaned on the tunnel and asked rescuers for help, asking to hug the motionless child.
Mr. Yang, 42, said that he had tried to call her to wake her up. He said that several times her eyes would suddenly open, and then closed again. “I’m sorry,” Mr. Yang told her.
Mr. Yang said that when he arrived at the hospital, he was already dead. She is one of the youngest victims. Her 9-year-old sister is still in intensive care.
Last Saturday, Yang Zhiyuan returned to the crash site-a tunnel through verdant mountains overlooking the Pacific-“calling for souls” with other grieving relatives, a traditional Taoist mourning ceremony, usually for accidental victims And held.
Facing the calm blue water, family members screamed to their loved ones who were killed in the crash.
“Go home!” They shouted toward the tunnel, where workers in yellow helmets stopped repairing damaged railroad tracks and removing train cars. “It’s time to go now!”
Mr. Yang said that Zhizhen, a grumpy girl, was very happy to spend a long holiday weekend in an ocean theme amusement park in Hualien, which is famous for its dolphin shows.
“Yang Zhichen, stop playing in the water now, we are leaving!” Mr. Yang cried, Mr. Yang still had a catheter in his hand, and his cheek was bruised and bandaged. “We are going to play elsewhere by bus!”
On the viewing platform above other families, Ms. Kakao, the woman who lost her husband and two children, cried quietly while a Christian pastor led prayers.
Her son Kacaw and daughter Micing are both students and track stars at the National Taiwan Sports University in Taoyuan City, Taipei City. They are a closely connected family and maintain deep ties with their indigenous ethnic group, Amis.
Ms. Kakao said that she enjoys playing badminton with her daughter in the community near New Taipei City and listening to her son playing the guitar. She said that the children have always been introverts, just like their father Siki Takiyo, who described her as a soft-spoken university administrator.
Now that all three of them have disappeared, Ms. Kakao’s nerd made her feel more guilty, because she struggled to understand how they might have died when she survived.
She said that she couldn’t wait to think about how she asked the children to return to their ancestors’ homes in eastern Taiwan. She hopes that they can meet their grandparents and pay their respects at the graves of their ancestors. Even though her daughter participated in track and field competitions and her son had been preparing for the exam, the children agreed.
On Friday morning, the family missed the train they originally booked. A kind conductor on the platform proposed to upgrade them to Taroko Express, which will allow them to get there faster. On the train, she was sitting in the back seat of the first car, while her husband and children were in the front row, which was the part of the train that absorbed the greatest impact afterwards.
For Ms. Kakao, all this seems random and unbearable.
“Why don’t I go with them?” she asked, crying. “Why do I want my child to go home with me?”
After praying, she sat in a wheelchair in a daze, with a large cotton bandage wrapped around her head. As she stared at the sea, tears flowed from her face. Light rain began to rain.
She said: “My only wish is for them to realize my dream tonight.”
Dong Yue reports from Hong Kong.