A passenger walks along a derailed train in Hualien County in eastern Taiwan Friday, April 2, 2021. The train partially derailed along Taiwan’s east coast Friday, injuring an unknown number of passengers and causing potential fatalities. (hsnews.com.tw via AP)

A passenger walks along a derailed train in Hualien County in eastern Taiwan Friday, April 2, 2021. The train partially derailed along Taiwan’s east coast Friday, injuring an unknown number of passengers and causing potential fatalities. (hsnews.com.tw via AP)

Taiwan train crash kills 50, many trapped, in deadliest rail tragedy in decades

A Taiwan express train with almost 500 aboard derailed in a tunnel on Friday after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank onto the track

A train partially derailed in eastern Taiwan on Friday after colliding with an unmanned vehicle that had rolled down a hill, killing 50 people and injuring dozens. With the train still partly in a tunnel, survivors climbed out of windows and walked along the train’s roof to reach safety after the country’s deadliest railway disaster.

The crash occurred near the Taroko Gorge scenic area on the first day of a long holiday weekend when many people were using Taiwan’s extensive rail system. The train had been carrying more than 400 people. Images from the scene showed derailed train cars wedged against the walls of the tunnel; part of the wall of one car had smashed into a seat.

“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, which did not show her face or give her name. “At the beginning, they still responded when we called them. But I guess they lost consciousness afterward.”

The National Fire Service confirmed the death toll, which included the train’s young, newly married driver, and said all aboard had now been accounted for. More than 100 people were injured, it said. Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash Taiwan’s deadliest rail disaster.

Weng said a construction truck operated by the railway administration slid onto the track from a work site on the hillside above. No one was in the truck at the time. He said the speed of the train was not known.

The train had only partially emerged from a tunnel, and with much of it still inside, many escaping passengers were forced to scramble out of doors and windows and scale the sides of the train to walk along the roof to safety.

The stretch of track where the orange-striped train came to a halt hugs the coastline. Yellow and red police tape marked the area of the crash, where tents had been set up and dozens of rescuers and officials had converged.

Taiwan is a mountainous island, and most of its 24 million people live in the flatlands along the northern and western coasts that are home to most of the island’s farmland, biggest cities and high-tech industries. The lightly populated east is popular with tourists, many of whom travel there by train to avoid mountain roads.

An investigation has been launched into the crash, and there was no immediate word about any arrests.

In a tweet, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said 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.”

The crash came on the first day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival, an annual religious holiday when people travel to their hometowns for family gatherings and to pay their respects at the graves of their ancestors.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said the Railways Administration would be required to immediately conduct checks along other track lines to “prevent this from happening again.”

About 50 volunteers from the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation stationed at an aid tent near the crash site said children were among the dozens who escaped the train cars. They were treating minor wounds and offering lunches.

“We see people coming off the train and they look shaken and nervous,” said Chen Tzu-chong, a Tzu Chi team leader on site.

Taiwan’s last major rail crash was in October 2018, when an express train derailed while rounding a tight corner on the northeast coast, killing at least 18 people and injuring nearly 200.

In 1991, a collision in western Taiwan killed 30 people and another crash a decade earlier also killed 30. Those were said to be the worst previous crashes on the rail system that dates from the late 19th century.

Taiwan’s extensive rail system has undergone substantial upgrades in recent years, particularly with the addition of a high-speed line connecting the capital Taipei with west coast cities to the south.

The train involved in Friday’s derailment, the Taroko No. 408, is one of Taiwan’s newer models.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A train is stranded in a tunnel in Hualien County in eastern Taiwan Friday, April 2, 2021. The train partially derailed along Taiwan’s east coast Friday, injuring an unknown number of passengers and causing potential fatalities. (Ministry of Interior, National Fire Department via AP)

A train is stranded in a tunnel in Hualien County in eastern Taiwan Friday, April 2, 2021. The train partially derailed along Taiwan’s east coast Friday, injuring an unknown number of passengers and causing potential fatalities. (Ministry of Interior, National Fire Department via AP)

Just Posted

An early morning fire forced the evacuation of a Maple Ridge apartment building on Saturday, April 3 (Deborah Hampton/Special to The News)
City of Maple Ridge thanks volunteers for response to Easter weekend blaze

Emergency Support Services volunteers stepped up to help displaced residents

A partial image from the painting Kanaka Creek by Eric Hotz, which in the exhibit at the Pitt Meadows Art Gallery.
A Study of Nature exhibition opens at Pitt Meadows Art Gallery

Eric Hotz paintings feature familiar scenes from across the Lower Mainland

Shannon Belsito took this photo on Thursday morning, indicating the true arrival of spring. “Feeling the inspiring beauty and freshness of spring with these gorgeous magnolia blossoms near Kanaka Creek that just popped after the rain.” (Special to The News)
SHARE: Spring has arrived in all its splendor

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon.

A small memorial to Rich Goulet was started at Pitt Meadows Secondary after his recent death. (Neil Corbett/The News)
LETTER: Rename Pitt Meadows school gym in coach’s honour

Rich Goulet was considered one of the provinces best basketball coaches and died recently

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
Puppies stolen during weekend break-and-enter in South Surrey

Surrey RCMP seeking public’s assistance in locating three American Bulldog puppies

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Mounties say they “corralled” four Ford Mustangs April 4 after an officer saw the muscle cars racing down 184 Street near 53 Avenue at about 10 p.m. (File Photo)
Mounties impound four Mustangs

Surrey RCMP say they seized four cars for street racing

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read