Taiwan: Dozens feared dead in train crash

A train in Taiwan was derailed on Friday morning killing at least four people

By mid-afternoon no one was still trapped, though the fire department said it had found body parts, meaning the number of those killed, who included the driver, was likely to rise. Minutes later, the train's lead auto crashed into it, according to Railways Administration official Weng Hui-ping, just before the train entered a tunnel.

The crash occurred near the Toroko Gorge area at around 9 a.m. local time (0100 GMT/UTC) on what is a public holiday in Taiwan.

The express train that derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan was manufactured by Hitachi Ltd. and started operations in May 2007 as Taiwan's first tilting rail auto, the major Japanese conglomerate said.

"People just fell all over each other, on top of one another", one female survivor told local television.

Images showed an injured passenger carried away on a stretcher, with her head and neck in a brace, while others gathered suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage as some walked on the train's roof to exit the tunnel. Some carriages hit the wall of the tunnel, as a result of the derailment, the fire department said.

The train had only partially emerged from a tunnel, and with much of it still inside, many escaping passengers were forced to scramble out of doors and windows and scale the sides of the train to walk along the roof to safety.

The crash quickly became Taiwan's deadliest rail disaster.

"Our train crashed into a truck", one man said in a video on Taiwan television, according to Reuters.

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Thirty were also killed in 1981 after a truck collided with a passenger train at a level crossing and sent coaches over a bridge in Hsinchu.

Weng said the speed of the train at the time of impact was not known.

The crash came on the first day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival, an annual religious holiday when people travel to their hometowns for family gatherings and to pay their respects at the graves of their ancestors.

Friday's crash could be the island's worst rail disaster in decades. "We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident".

Taiwan's last major rail crash was in October 2018 when an express train derailed while rounding a tight corner on the northeast coast, killing at least 18 people and injuring almost 200.

The Japanese government said Friday the country is ready to consider helping Taiwan if requested following a deadly train accident on the island that resulted in dozens of casualties.

In 1948, 64 people were estimated to have died when a train caught fire in northern Taiwan.

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