A busy passenger train that derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan has left at least 50 people dead and dozens more injured. The government-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported that the eight-car train, which was travelling to Taitung and carrying 490 people, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien on April 2, causing several carriages to hit the wall of the tunnel. The fire department informed that the train driver was among the dead and at least 69 survivors were being treated in several hospitals in the surrounding Hualien County.
According to reports, some of the dead are still awaiting identification, however, authorities believe that everyone trapped with the train’s heavily damaged carriages has been removed. Taiwan’s officials said that a French citizen was also killed in the crash, while two Japanese citizens and a citizen of Macau were among those injured. Initial investigation suggested that the derailment could have occurred due to a “truck”, which was apparently not parked properly and may have come into the path of the train.
“Many people were crushed under train seats in the collision. And there were other people on top of the seats. So those at the bottom were pressed and crushed and lost consciousness,” a passenger with gauze taped to her elbow told Taiwanese broadcaster EBC. the passenger added, “At the beginning, they still responded when we called them. But I guess they lost consciousness afterward”.
Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash Taiwan’s “deadliest rail disaster”. Weng said that a construction truck operated by the railway administration slid into the track from a worksite on the hillside above. He added that no one was in the truck at the time and further said that the speed of the train was not known.
An investigation into the incident has now been launched and there was no immediate word about any arrests. While taking to Twitter, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen also informed that emergency services have been mobilised to rescue and assist. She also said that the officials will continue to do everything to ensure safety.
In response to a train derailment in Hualien, Taiwan, our emergency services have been fully mobilized to rescue & assist the passengers & railway staff affected. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident.— è¡è±æ Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) April 2, 2021
In a statement, Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang also said that the Railways Administration would be required to immediately conduct checks along other track lines to “prevent this from happening again”.