At least 48 people are dead, and more than 70 injured after an express train derailed in a tunnel on Taiwan’s east coat near Hualien City this morning, April 2.
The number 408 Ziqiang express train from Shulin to Taitung City derailed as it was entering the Qingshui Tunnel between Chongde and Heren stations at 9:28 am.
More than 350 people were aboard the 8-carriage train, which was fully booked as today is the first day of 4-day holiday for the Tomb Sweeping Festival.
At least 36 people lost vital signs at the scene of the accident, reports said at around noon, but the death count grew as rescue crews cut through the mangled wreck of the train. By late afternoon, 48 bodies had been found. Most of the dead and seriously injured were concentrated in the 7th and 8th carriages, firefighters said.
Passengers who were able escaped through broken windows, and some through the roof of the derailed cars inside the tunnel.
According to reports, the derailment was the result of a collision with a vehicle that had fallen onto the rails from a tunnel construction project 20 meters above the track. Work on the site had been suspended for the holidays and the vehicle had been parked on a slope, reports said.
The train slammed into the vehicle after rounding a curve, severely damaging the driver’s cabin, killing the 33-year-old driver, Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said.
Passengers were left in the dark after the power went out, and had to navigate using light from their phones.
Firefighters were dispatched from Hualien County and Yilan County fire stations and arrived at the scene around 20 minutes after the crash.
Shortly after noon 57 army personnel were dispatched to the scene of the accident to help with the rescue operations and logistics.
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