Dozens feared dead after trains derail in Taiwan; the rescue work continues

A train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday after apparently hitting a truck, with at least 36 people feared dead and more than 72 injured, as rescuers struggled to reach crushed carriages, the government said.

The train, which was traveling to Taitung, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien and caused some carriages to hit the tunnel wall, the fire brigade said in a statement.

The Ministry of Transport set the death toll in the island’s worst railway disaster in more than three decades at 36. More than 72 people were injured, with about 60 already sent to hospital.

The train carried about 350 people and the rescue work is in progress, says the fire brigade.

Between 80 and 100 people have been evacuated from the train’s first four carriages, while carriages five to eight have been “deformed” and are difficult to access, it added.

“Is everyone out in carriage four?” a woman is heard screaming from inside the tunnel, in pictures from the fire brigade.

The official Central News Agency said a truck that was “not parked properly” was suspected of slipping into the train. The fire brigade showed a picture of what appeared to be the wreckage of the truck lying next to a part of the derailed train.

“Our train crashed into a truck,” a man said in a video broadcast on Taiwanese television showing pictures of the wreck. “The truck fell down.”

The front of the train was located outside the tunnel, and those in carriages that were still in the tunnel were led to safety, the Taiwan Railway Administration said.

Pictures of the crash site show carriages inside the tunnel shattered and torn from the collision, passengers collect suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage and others walk along the tracks full of wrecks.

The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional burial day.

The mountainous east coast of Taiwan is a popular tourist destination.

In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan.