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An express passenger train carrying 496 passengers derailed after colliding with a truck killing 51 and injuring at least 146. The Taiwan Railway Administration reports the worst train accident in decades occurred near Chongde, Hualien, on Saturday, April 2, 2021, reports the South China Morning Post.
The Taroko Express was traveling to Taitung from New Taipei City when the accident happened at about 9:30 a.m. local time (9:30 p.m. ET April 1). The eight-car train was about to enter the Chingshui Tunnel when it hit the truck.
Two of the carriages derailed, forcing parts of the truck into the tunnel, killing the engineer and mechanic on impact — 33-year-old Yuan Chun-hsiu and 32-year-old Chiang Pei-feng. Several of the following cars slammed into the tunnel walls crushing them; those at the end were less damaged, according to Feng Hui-sheng, the deputy director of the Taiwan Railway Administration.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen tweeted they had fully mobilized all emergency services to rescue and assist passengers and railway staff affected. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident.”
The crash site’s images showed some of the cars ripped apart on impact, and others were crumpled. Also seen was passengers clambering out of the windows and over the sides of the train to safety.
The mangled carriages hindered rescue operations. One of the rescuers, Lan Ping-chich, said:
The limited space in the narrow tunnel made it difficult for us to locate the survivors and get them out.
One passenger reported hearing a loud bumping sound right before the train crashed. He told Sanlih Entertainment Television (SET TV), a nationwide cable TV network operated in Taiwan, he thought his arm was broken but “luckily it is okay.”
Another passenger recalled all of the lights inside the carriages went out. She said it was chaotic with passengers falling on the floor and belongings scattering.
Red Cross of Taiwan was on the scene to assist government agencies with freeing trapped passengers. The Hualien Fire Department reported all of the trapped passengers had been freed by 6:30 p.m. local time.
The accident coincided with the first day of the annual 4-day Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) festival. Many passengers were traveling home for the traditional festival observed by the Han Chinese of mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and by the Chitty of Malaysia and Singapore.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
NBC News: Taiwan train crash kills at least 51 people, leaves dozens injured; by Max Burman
South China Morning Post: Taiwan train crash: 50 killed, 146 hurt in collision with runaway truck; by Lawrence Chang
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Inset Image Courtesy of d’n’c’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License