Taiwan’s transport minister said on Sunday that he would resign after he and the manager of a construction site whose truck slipped on a railway track that caused a catastrophic train crash accepted responsibility for the disaster.
In the island’s worst railway accident in seven decades, 50 people have been confirmed dead after a crowded express train with almost 500 passengers and crew crashed into the truck near the eastern city of Hualien on Friday, causing it to derail and the front to crumble. .
The truck that the train was driving had slipped down a sloping road into the track just outside a tunnel. Officials are investigating the head of the construction site, Lee Yi-hsiang, whose truck is suspected of having been properly braked.
Lee read out a statement apologizing for what happened when police took him away from his home, Taiwanese media reported.
“I deeply regret this and express my deepest apologies,” he said. “I will definitely cooperate with the prosecutors and the police in the investigation, accept the responsibility that should be borne and never avoid it. Finally, I once again express my sincere apology.”
A court in Hualien said on Sunday night that it had ordered Lee to be detained for two months and said there was a risk he could destroy evidence. After questioning the judge and evidence from prosecutors, he is suspected of having caused the death by negligence, it says.
His lawyer told reporters that Lee wanted to face what happened and was apologetic and expressed remorse.
Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung said in a statement on his Facebook page that he would resign when the first rescue operation had ceased, adding that he “took full responsibility”.
“I should have accepted all the criticism in recent days, but we have not done well enough,” he said.
Premier Su Tseng-chang’s office said before the announcement that Lin had made a verbal offer to resign, but Su had for the time being rejected it, saying that efforts at the moment should focus on rescue and recovery.
Survivors have described horrific scenes inside the train.
Pastor Sung Chih-chiang told Reuters what the surviving passenger Chung Hui-mei had said to him.
“She could not find her daughter. When she screamed, she found that her daughter was under the steel panels. She made an effort to move these pieces one by one, but her daughter’s voice grew quieter and quieter, and then no answer came,” he said. .
Workers continue to remove the train from inside the tunnel and look for other bodies, and officials have warned that the number of deaths could go up or down when verifying identity. The government revised the fee by one on Sunday evening to 50.
The Ministry of Transport and the railway administration under it are facing a number of questions, including why there was no proper fence on the site and whether too many standing tickets were sold for the train journey.
Deputy Minister of Transport Wang Kwo-tsai said late on Saturday that the railway administration needed to look closely at all these issues.
The Railway Administration is without a permanent director after its former manager retired in January.
The uncle of the youngest confirmed victim, a 5-year-old girl, told reporters in tears that he was still waiting for an apology for the accident. “I’m so angry,” he said.
The government has promised compensation and said it will do everything possible to help survivors and their relatives, including coordinating public donations.
The damaged part of the track will not open until April 20 at the earliest, Wang said, although rail traffic continues on a parallel track that passes through another tunnel and was not affected by the accident.
The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional day of wrapping, when people return home to take care of family graves.