48 dead after train derails in Taiwan

At least 36 people feared dead after train derails in E Taiwan

Reports said a truck fell from a cliff above and landed on the tracks, where a train emerging from a tunnel smashed into it.

Taiwan media said many people were standing as the train was so crowded, and were tossed about by the crash impact.

Volunteer rescue workers from the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation said children were among the dozens who escaped the train cars.

The limited express train was carrying almost 500 passengers when it went off the rails in a tunnel along the island's eastern coast.

The Associated Press reported that the crash occurred on Friday at about 9 a.m. near the Toroko Gorge.

A brief video released by the centre inside the tunnel showed rescuers arriving on the scene and one twisted carriage door.

"Those in the carriages stuck in the tunnel, some broke the windows, some climbed on the roofs, some were covered in blood, some were looking for their relatives", Yang recalled one of the passengers saying. The inside of one auto was pushed all the way into the adjacent seat.

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Authorities added that 72 people were still trapped inside carriages while 61 passengers had been hospitalized. No-one was in the truck at the time.

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 route that hugs the coastline. An investigation has been launched, and Hualien police have interviewed one person, Weng said.

In a tweet, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said emergency services "have been fully mobilized to rescue & assist the passengers & railway staff affected. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident".

The accident came on the first day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival, an annual religious festival when people travel to their hometowns for family gatherings and to worship at the graves of their ancestors. Other Taiwan media said numerous people were standing at the time of the collision because the train was so crowded.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said the Railways Administration would be required to immediately conduct checks along other track lines to "prevent this from happening again".

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

"Compared to the Taipei Metro and the Taiwan High Speed Rail in Taiwan, the Taiwan Railways Administration has a relatively high frequency of accidents", Wei said. He said the crash was the worst-ever in Taiwan.

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