A busy passenger train carrying 490 people has derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan, killing at least 48 and injuring dozens more, authorities said, as rescue efforts to free those trapped continue.
The eight car train, traveling to Taitung, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien Friday morning, causing several carriages to hit the wall of the tunnel, the government-run Central News Agency (CNA) reported, citing the fire department.
The train driver is among the 48 dead, the fire department told the country’s executive office. 66 survivors are being treated in at least six hospitals in the surrounding Hualien County, while an unknown number of people are still stuck in carriages that were badly damaged in the accident.
The derailment could have been caused by a vehicle which that from a slope near the tunnel, and hit the moving train, according to CNA.
A video on social media showed parts of an industrial vehicle heavy equipment, along with what looks like a car door beside the derailed train. In the video, a man can be heard saying, “Our train hit the truck. Where is this place? Qingshui Tunnel, the accident happened at Qingshui Tunnel. The train hit the truck, the truck fell off. It’s lucky that I was at the later carriage — I was at the fourth carriage.”
“In response to a train derailment in Hualien, Taiwan, our emergency services have been fully mobilized to rescue & assist the passengers & railway staff affected,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Twitter. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident.”
The accident coincided just as a long weekend kicked off for the Tomb Sweeping Day public holiday. One couple who were on the train told CNA they were on their way to Taitung to sweep tombs and pay their respects to deceased family members, as is traditional for the event. The train was so full that many people were standing.
The crash site is located just east of the picturesque Taroko National Park, a popular tourist destination on the country’s mountainous east coast.
In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan, in the island’s worst rail disaster in more than three decades.