At least 51 people were killed on Friday when a packed train derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan at the start of a holiday weekend, the island s worst railway accident in decades.
Officials said the devastating accident was likely caused by a maintenance vehicle falling down an embankment and striking the train before it entered the tunnel near the coastal city of Hualien. “There was a construction vehicle that didn t park properly and slid onto the rail track,” Hualien county police chief Tsai Ding-hsien told reporters.
Local media images from the scene showed the back of a yellow flatbed truck on its side next to the train.
The eight-carriage train was packed with some 480 people heading down the east coast for the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a four-day public holiday. The Taiwan Railways Agency said 146 passengers were sent to hospital on top of the 51 confirmed dead.
A French national was among those killed while two Japanese and one Macau resident were injured. One unnamed female survivor told TVBS news channel of trapped passengers — some crying out for help, others unconscious. “There were many people pressed under the seats and others on top of those seats too,” she said.
President Tsai Ing-wen visited an emergency response centre in the capital Taipei, and said investigators would get to the bottom of how such a deadly crash could have occurred. “We will definitely clarify the cause of the incident that has caused major casualties,” she told reporters. “I hope the deceased can rest in peace and the wounded can recover soon.”