Crane Collides With Express Train in Taiwan, Killing Dozens

2021-04-02
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Crane Collides With Express Train in Taiwan, Killing Dozens Firefighters arrive to rescue victims after a construction vehicle collides with a train running from New Taipei City to Taitung, Taiwan, April 2, 2021.
Photo: Taiwan Executive Yuan

At least 48 people lost their lives and dozens more were sent to hospital on Friday, after a construction vehicle slammed into a busy express train on the democratic island of Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen ordered a full inquiry into the accident that befell the Taroko Express train on its way from the capital Taipei to the eastern coastal city of Taitung at the start of a four-day national holiday.

"The cause of the accident must be thoroughly investigated. This was a serious accident with many casualties, including the young driver for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA), who died doing his job," Tsai told journalists.

"We have asked the Transportation Safety Board to launch a rigorous inquiry into this accident to fully clarify the cause," she said.

TV news footage showed several of the train's carriages smashed in by the impact of a construction crane truck that collided with the express, derailing it partly inside the Daqingshui Tunnel, in the eastern county of Hualien.

Sixty-six of the train's 350-some passengers were sent to hospital following the accident with moderate to severe injuries.

According to the TRA, which operates the Taroko Express, the crane truck had been parked on a hill above the track.

The driver was being questioned by police after the accident, with the TRA saying it believed the emergency brake hadn't been engaged on the truck, allowing it to slide down a slope and onto the railway tracks.

Hualien police said the the crane truck had been parked on a steep hill near the tracks, and had started to roll down, probably because the driver hadn't engaged the emergency brake.

'People were just lying there'

A passenger surnamed Wu told Taiwan's Central News Agency (CNA): "I got myself out of the train, but I didn't want to look at the scene. Many people were just lying there," he said.

"It was totally dark. Nobody knew what to do," he said.

Passengers said power to the carriages was cut after the accident, leaving passengers unable to open doors. Some texted friends and relatives to say they were trapped but safe, media reports said.

Some of the passengers were making the trip back to their family homes, to tend family graves, in a four-day festival dedicated to honoring the ancestors.

Premier Su Tseng-chang, transportation minister Lin Chia-lung and interior minister Hsu Kuo-yung headed for the crash site, promising the best medical care, with Lin apologizing to the nation for the accident.

We will cooperate with prosecutors and the Transportation Safety Board 's investigations, as well overseeing emergency repairs," Lin said.

"This will take about five days owing to the damage to the tracks and the electrical equipment. This section of the east coast line won't be fully operational until after the end of the ... holiday," he said.

The island's military sent more than 100 personnel with vehicles to aid the rescue effort, CNA reported.

Reported by RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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