Train derailment in Taiwan: 26 people dead, dozens injured

Sylvie Claire / April 2, 2021

President Tsai Ing-wen's office said the head of state has ordered hospitals to prepare for a large number of victims. The top priority now is to rescue the stranded people, her office said in a statement.


Police reported that 36 passengers were in cardiac arrest before arriving at the hospital - a term used to describe a person with no signs of life. In addition, 72 people were trapped in the cars and 61 were taken to hospital. According to the Emergency Operations Centre, the toll was lower, with 26 people showing no signs of life.


UDN, which had a crew on the scene outside the tunnel, showed images of at least two cars undamaged and rescuers helping passengers out. I felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I fell to the ground, one woman testified on the channel. We broke the window to climb on top of the train to get out.


350 passengers


The train, which was carrying some 350 passengers and had eight cars, was connecting Taipei to the city of Taitung, located in the southeast of the island. The accident occurred on Taiwan's eastern railroad line around 9:30 a.m. (01:30 GMT) near the coastal city of Hualien.


According to media reports, the accident was caused by a construction machine sliding down an embankment and hitting the train as it entered the tunnel. Photos taken at the scene show the back of a yellow flatbed truck lying on its side near the train. 


The accident occurred on the first day of the annual Grave Sweeping Festival, a long weekend holiday during which Taiwan's roads and railroads are usually crowded. During this time, people usually return to their home villages to clean the graves of their loved ones and make offerings


Taiwan's Eastern Railway is a popular tourist attraction located along the coastline, a beautiful area. Through multiple tunnels and bridges, it winds through towering mountains and deep gorges before descending into the Huadong Valley.


One of the worst rail disasters


Friday's accident could be one of the worst train disasters in Taiwan in recent decades. The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018, killing 18 people at the southern end of the same line. The driver of the eight-car train was charged with negligent homicide at the time. More than 200 of the 366 passengers were injured. 


The accident was the worst since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli. Thirty people were also killed in 1981, when a truck hit a passenger train at a level crossing, sending the cars over a bridge in Hsinchu. In 2003, 17 people died and 156 were injured when a train on Alishan Mountain fell into a precipice.

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