Published: Sat, April 03, 2021
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Dozens feared dead, many trapped in Taiwan's deadliest rail tragedy in decades

Dozens feared dead, many trapped in Taiwan's deadliest rail tragedy in decades

In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the island's northeast.

"We see people coming off the train and they look shaken and nervous", Chen Tzu-chong, a Tzu Chi team leader on site, told The Associated Press.

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 vehicle, the major Japanese conglomerate said.

Many passengers were crushed, while some survivors were forced to climb out of windows and walk along the train's roof to safety. Officials say the train crashed into an unattended truck that had rolled down a hill onto the tracks.

A section of a train that derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien, in eastern Taiwan on Friday.

A construction truck operated by the railway slid down a hillside and onto the track, Taiwan Railways Administration news officer Weng Hui-ping, said, causing the train to partially derail inside a mountain tunnel.

A further 70 people were still thought to be trapped in carriages inside the tunnel while around 60 were rushed to hospital.

The train, from the capital Taipei to Taitung, was carrying people travelling for a long-weekend annual holiday. One French citizen was amongst the dead, officials said.

Taiwan rail crash site

Taiwan's government said there were 496 people on the train, including 120 without seats.

Taiwan is a mountainous island, and most of its 24 million people live in the flatlands along the northern and western coasts that are home to most of the island's farmland, biggest cities and high-tech industries.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen issued a statement saying "rescuing those trapped is our highest priority now".

"We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident".

In their latest rescue operation update, police said 36 passengers were classified as "out of hospital cardiac arrest" - a term for someone showing no signs of life.

About 50 volunteers from the Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation stationed at an aid tent near the crash site said children were among the dozens who escaped the train cars. He said the crash was the worst-ever in Taiwan.

The 408 train is one of the fastest deployed on a network that is generally considered safe.

A collision between two trains resulted in 30 deaths and 112 injuries.

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