The derailment of a train in Taiwan has caused at least 48 deaths and 118 injured, as reported by the Taiwanese Railway Police Office on Friday. The accident occurred on a Taroko Express train, in which 350 people were traveling, and which collided with a maintenance vehicle when the convoy was traveling through the Daqingshui tunnel, reports the CNA news agency. Dozens of people remain trapped in one of the wagons that have left the tracks. It is the deadliest traffic accident on the island in decades.
Photogallery: A train derailment in eastern Taiwan, in pictures
The train connected Taipei, the capital, in the extreme north of the island, with Taitung, in the south; a fast line whose vehicles circulate at a speed of approximately 180 kilometers per hour. Inside it carried about 350 travelers, its maximum capacity. Many of them took advantage of the festive day to move, since this Friday is the eve of the Qingming festival, the eastern day of the dead, in which it is customary to visit cemeteries and clean the graves of deceased relatives.
The derailment occurred around 9.30 a.m. local time (03.30 a.m. in mainland Spain) at the height of Hualien, a town on the eastern coast, according to the Minister of Transport, Lin Chia-lung, in his Official facebook page. According to the first information provided by the official Taiwanese news agency, Central News Agency (CNA), a “poorly parked” construction vehicle had slipped until it ended up in the train’s path. “Our train collided with a truck,” explained a man in a statement broadcast by a local television channel. Images taken by the firefighting team show what appears to be the wreckage of the car that caused the collision, reduced to a mass of iron.
The train has been halfway, with part of the body inside the tunnel. A hundred people have already been evacuated from the four front carriages; while the four rear ones have been deformed due to the impact, which makes the rescue maneuver difficult. At noon local time, about 200 passengers remained inside the train. The driver of the same has not yet been located.
The eastern coast of Taiwan is a very popular tourist destination, and the line that runs along it is famous for its tunnels. The last railway accident on the island dates from 2018, when 18 people died and 175 were injured after the derailment of a train in the northwest of the territory. Subsequent investigations revealed that the driver exceeded the speed limit and manually disabled the protection systems. The deadliest accident dates back to 1981, when another collision claimed the lives of 30 individuals.
The office of President Tsai Ing-wen has stated that the head of state has ordered hospitals to prepare to host many victims. “The absolute priority now is to help the trapped people,” his office said in a statement.
The East Taiwan Railway is a tourist attraction because it runs along its splendid and less populated eastern coast. Through multiple tunnels and bridges it winds through mountains and spectacular gorges before descending through the Huadong Valley.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.