Taiwan train crash kills 36 in deadliest rail tragedy in decades

Grant Boone
April 3, 2021

At least 41 people have died and up to 200 remain trapped after a train carrying almost 500 people crashed and then derailed in a tunnel in Taiwan.

The AP reported that a truck somehow fell off a cliff and landed directly in front of the tunnel.

A further 70 people were still thought to be trapped in carriages inside the tunnel while around 60 were rushed to hospital.

"We will definitely clarify the cause of the incident that has caused major casualties", she told reporters.

Images from the scene showed carriages in the tunnel ripped apart by the impact, with others crumpled, hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers, although by mid-afternoon no one was still trapped.

Numerous passengers would have been traveling for the first day of the four-day Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Festival - an annual pilgrimage to the gravesites of ancestors.

Taiwan's mountainous east coast is a popular tourist destination, and the railway line from Taipei down the east coast is renowned for its tunnels and a route that hugs the coast just north of Hualien where the crash occurred.

Passengers in some train carriages still in the tunnel had to be led to safety, the railway administration said. The train had been carrying more than 400 people.

"It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor", an unidentified female survivor told the network, saying she suffered a cut to her head.

Rescuers work at the site of a train that derailed after colliding with a railway maintenance vehicle that slipped down an embankment above the tracks in the mountains of Hualien in eastern Taiwan on Friday. | AFP-JIJI

The train was carrying nearly 500 people on its way from Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to Taitung on the east coast, when it derailed in a tunnel just north of Hualien.

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.

During the festival, people return to ancestral villages to tidy up the graves of their relatives and make offerings.

It took two years for Taiwan to release the final investigation report on the October 2018 crash, in which 18 people were killed and 291 were injured.

With the help of multiple tunnels and bridges, it winds its way through towering mountains and dramatic gorges before making its way down Huadong Valley. Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash Taiwan's deadliest rail disaster.

The driver of the eight-carriage train was later charged with negligent homicide.

In 1991, a collision in western Taiwan killed 30 people and injured 112 in its deadliest train accident.

Apple Daily newspaper said the island's worst crash was in 1948 when 64 died.

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