Taiwan train crash kills 36, many trapped, in deadliest rail tragedy in decades

This handout picture taken and released by on April 2, 2021 by Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Center shows the scene where a train derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien, eastern Taiwan. AFP

At least 36 people were killed and some 70 remain trapped in wreckage after a Taiwan train derailed in a tunnel on Friday when it apparently hit a truck that slid off a road leading to a nearby construction site.

The crash, which also injured more than 40 passengers, is the island's worst rail disaster in at least four decades.

The train, an express travelling from Taipei to Taitung carrying many tourists and people heading home at the start of a long weekend, came off the rails north of Hualien in eastern Taiwan, the fire department said.

Images of the crash scene show carriages inside the tunnel ripped apart from the impact, while others crumpled, hindering rescuers reaching passengers.

The train was carrying around 350 people, the fire department said. Taiwan media said many people were standing as the train was so full, and were thrown about when it crashed.

More than 40 people have already been taken to hospital and others injured are in the process of being taken to hospital, with around 70 reported trapped in train carriages.

Between 80 to 100 people were evacuated from the first four carriages of the train, while carriages five to eight have "deformed" and are hard to gain access to, it added.

"Is everyone out in carriage four?" a lady is heard shouting from inside the tunnel, in images provided by the fire department.

The official Central News Agency said a truck that was "not parked properly" was suspected of sliding into the path of the train.

The fire department showed a picture of what appeared to be the truck's wreckage lying next to the derailed train, and an aerial image of the end of the train sitting on the track next to a construction site.

"Our train crashed into a truck," one man said in a video aired on Taiwanese television, showing pictures of the wreckage. "The truck came falling down."

Part of the train was situated outside the tunnel, and those in carriages still in the tunnel were being led to safety, Taiwan's railway administration said.

Images showed an injured passenger being stretched out of the crash scene, her head and neck in a brace, passengers gathering suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage and others walking out of the tunnel on the roof of the train.

The accident occurred at the start of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day.

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 coast just north of Hualien where the crash occurred.

The line connecting Taipei with Hualien was only opened in 1979.

In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan. In 1981, 30 were killed in a collision in northern Taiwan, and in 1991 another 30 died in a train crash.

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