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(Update) Reported death toll in Taiwan train derailment is 50

French national believed to be among victims, 146 people injured

Rescue teams accompanying the injured away from the train 

Rescue teams accompanying the injured away from the train  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The death toll in the train derailment near a tunnel in Hualien County was given as 50 after the last passengers trapped inside were rescued, the Taiwan Railways Administration said Friday (April 2) evening.

On the first day of the Tomb Sweeping Holiday, more than 450 passengers had taken the Taroko Express train from Shulin, New Taipei City, with Taitung as its destination.

While initial reports suggested a construction vehicle hit the train as it was about to enter the Daqingshui Tunnel in Xiulin, Hualien County, at 9:28 a.m., further investigation revealed a crane truck parked on a slope above the track might have rolled down 20 meters and ended up on the tracks before the train arrived.

The first carriage of the train, Car No. 8, hit the vehicle before coming to a stop inside the tunnel with four other carriages. Only the last three cars were still outside the tunnel.

The Taiwan Transportation Safety Board (TTSB, 運安會) said that either the truck’s handbrake had not been engaged or it had malfunctioned. A thorough investigation might last three months before it could produce definitive results.

Prosecutors interviewed the driver, who reportedly claimed he had switched on the emergency brake and even put a rock behind the wheels to prevent the vehicle from moving. Under normal circumstances, no outside vehicle should be able to move onto the tracks, the TTSB said, suggesting a fence should have been erected between the track and the construction site above the railway line.

According to a Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) map, most of the fatalities were found in the two first carriages. A total of 146 people were injured, many of them transferred for treatment to several hospitals in the region or receiving first aid at nearby Chongde Railway Station.

Both the train conductor and his assistant, aged 33 and 32 respectively, died in the crash, while the youngest victim was a six-year-old girl, reports said. One French national was also believed to be among the victims, while the injured included visitors from Japan and Australia, cable station TVBS reported.

Survivors told reporters how power had cut out, and they had to find their way by using the light from their phones. Eye witnesses said many passengers had become trapped under the train seats.

The government set up a special emergency center, while asking traffic to avoid the highways leading to the scene of the crash in order to allow ambulances quicker access. Friday’s crash was described as the deadliest rail accident in Taiwan for the past 70 years, Apple Dailyreported.

Updated : 2021-11-30 06:28 GMT+08:00