The driver of a truck who slid off a sloping road before plowing into an oncoming train is questioned by police after reports that the handbrake was not applied.
The Taiwanese express train with nearly 500 on board derailed in a tunnel today, killing at least 48 passengers and injuring more than 100 in the island’s worst rail disaster in nearly four decades.
The crash north of the eastern city of Hualien killed the train driver, who was reportedly recently married.
It carried many tourists and people who went home to tend family graves at the start of a traditional weekend vacation.
Pictures from the scene showed cars in the tunnel torn apart by the impact while others were crumpled and prevented rescuers from reaching passengers, although no one was trapped by the afternoon local time.
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The official Central News Agency has now announced that the nameless truck driver has been picked up by investigators.
“People just fell on top of each other,” a woman who survived the crash told domestic television. “It was terrifying. There were whole families there. “
The Taiwanese media said that many people were standing because the train was so crowded and tossed around by the effects of the crash. The media showed pictures of survivors being led out of the tunnel.
The train, which was traveling from Taipei, the capital, to the southeastern city of Taitung came off the rails after apparently hitting the crane truck from a nearby construction site.
At the scene, Minister of Transportation Lin Chia-lung told reporters that around 490 people had been carried, more than an earlier number of 350 provided by fire service authorities.
The fire department showed a picture of the wreckage of the truck next to the derailed train, with an aerial photo of one end of the train that was still on the track next to the construction site.
“Our train crashed into a truck,” said one man in a video on Taiwanese television showing pictures of the rubble. “The truck fell down.”
Passengers in some train wagons that were still in the tunnel had to be brought to safety, said the railway administration.
The pictures showed an injured passenger being carried away on a stretcher with his head and neck in braces while others were collecting suitcases and bags in a tipped, derailed car while some walked on the roof of the train to exit the tunnel.
The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day.
Taiwan’s mountainous east coast is a tourist destination.
The railroad that winds down from Taipei hugs the coastline and is known for its tunnels where the crash took place. The connection to Taipei was opened in 1979.
Taiwan’s state railways are generally reliable and efficient, but have had an inconsistent safety record over the years.
In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the northeast of the island. In 1981, 30 people were killed in a collision in the north, while in 1991, 30 people were killed in a train accident.