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Taiwan ‘corpse repairers’ recount heartbreaking moments after fatal train crash

Volunteer morticians offering consolation to families of victims

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The families of the victims in a train crash conjure their spirits near Taroko Gorge in Hualien, Taiwan on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

The families of the victims in a train crash conjure their spirits near Taroko Gorge in Hualien, Taiwan on Saturday, April 3, 2021. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A group of volunteer mortuary cosmetologists is working around the clock to bring dignity to those who lost their lives in the deadly derailment that killed 48 in eastern Taiwan on Friday (April 2).

More than 100 members of the “76 Monks” have mobilized to reconstruct corpses in the aftermath of Taiwan's worst rail disaster in decades. Founded after the deadly plane crash in Penghu in 2014, the non-profit organization, which comprises morticians and people with related backgrounds, is dedicated to restoring the bodies of those killed in major accidents.

Friday’s train collision near Taroko Gorge in Hualien presents a challenge for these “repairers,” as many bodies retrieved from the mangled train carriages are badly damaged, some beyond recognition. “It's unbearable at the scene, families of the victims were crying so hard they fainted,” said Chen Hsiu-chiang (陳修將), one of those involved in the task.

The work is heart-wrenching, even for the most experienced mortuary cosmetologists, when they have to handle the corpses of victims as young as four years old. “Some volunteers broke down in mourning for those who perished at such a young age and paused to have a good cry before they could resume work,” Newtalk quoted 76 Monks spokesperson Angela Wang (王薇君) as saying.

Reconstructing deformed bodies requires great skill and materials such as cosmetics, prostheses, plaster, and artificial skin. As of Saturday (April 3), 10 bodies had been repaired, with the rest expected to be completed within a week, reported UDN.

The good Samaritans are asking nothing in return as donations pour in to support their charitable deeds. The proceeds will be used to purchase equipment needed for future missions, the organization said in a Facebook post.

Each member of the 76 Monks has their own way of dealing with the stress from the job. Chen said he spends two to three hours in a car to calm himself and find peace of mind.

Taiwan ‘corpse repairers’ recount heartbreaking moments after fatal train crash
Bereaved family members try to conjure victims' spirits. (AP photo)

Taiwan ‘corpse repairers’ recount heartbreaking moments after fatal train crash
Rescue workers remove part of derailed train near Taroko Gorge in Hualien Saturday. (AP photo)