At least 48 dead in Taiwan after train derails


Published: 2021-04-02 08:47

Last Updated: 2021-04-12 20:33

Source: Al Jazeera
Source: Al Jazeera

Friday, at least 48 people were killed in a train derailment in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan, in the worst railway accident on the island in decades.

The National Relief Agency said in its latest report that "at least 48 people were killed" and 66 were hospitalized.

According to the authorities, the accident may have been caused by a construction mechanism that slipped off a cliff and collided with a train that was preparing to enter a tunnel near the city of Hualien on the coast of Taiwan.

"There was a construction mechanism that was not properly parked and slipped down to the railway," said Cai Ding-Hsien, a police official in Hualien District.

"This is our preliminary conclusion and we are trying to clarify the circumstances of the accident," he added.

The office of Taiwan President Tsai Wang-wen issued a statement saying that she had ordered hospitals to prepare for the arrival of large numbers of injuries.

"The most important priority now is to rescue the stranded people," the statement said.

The UDN network said that a team present inside the tunnel broadcast pictures showing at least two vehicles that had not suffered any damage, while rescuers were helping the passengers to get off the train.

The accident occurred on the railway line in eastern Taiwan at about 1:30 pm GMT near the port city of Hualien.

The eight-car train was traveling from Taipei to the southeastern city of Taitung, carrying about 350 passengers.

- Run to the roof of the train -

A woman who survived the accident told a local news network, "I felt as though there was a sudden violent jolt and found myself falling to the ground."

"We broke the window in order to be able to get to the roof of the train and get out," she added.

According to photos released by the Taiwan Red Cross, rescuers carrying lamps were walking on the roof of the train inside the tunnel to reach the survivors.

Everyone was removed from the train cars on Friday afternoon, local time.

Because of the frequent earthquakes in Taiwan, their rescue workers have experience and are always ready to intervene and help people trapped by disasters.

The accident occurred on the first day of the annual Tomb-Sweeping Festival, which is a long weekend when Taiwan's roads and railways are usually crowded.

During this period, residents generally return to their villages to clean the graves of their relatives.

The railway line in eastern Taiwan is a very popular tourist destination, and it runs along the coast in a scenic area.

This line includes several tunnels and bridges and meanders through majestic mountains and very deep valleys, before descending into the Huadong Valley.

Friday's accident could be one of Taiwan's worst rail disasters in decades.

The last major derailment in Taiwan dates back to 2018, killing 18 people in the far south of the same line.

The driver of the eight-car train was charged with negligent homicide.

More than 200 of the 366 passengers were injured.

The accident was the worst since 1991 when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli.

Also, 30 people were killed in 1981 when a truck collided with a passenger train at a crossing at the same level, in Hsinchu.

In 2003, 17 people were killed and 156 others injured when a train on Mount Alishan fell into a slope.