Taipei: A train partially derailed Friday in eastern Taiwan after being hit by an unmanned vehicle that had rolled down a hill left 48 persons dead. With the train still partly in a tunnel, survivors climbed out of windows and walked along the train’s roof to reach safety after Taiwan’s deadliest railway disaster.
The crash occurred near the Toroko Gorge scenic area on the first day of a long holiday weekend when many people were hopping trains on Taiwan’s extensive rail system. The train had been carrying more than 400 people.
The National Fire Service confirmed the death toll, which included the train’s young, newly married driver, and said all aboard had now been accounted for. More than 100 people were injured, it said. Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash Taiwan’s deadliest rail disaster.
Weng said a construction truck operated by the railway administration slid onto the track from a work site on the hillside above. No one was in the truck at the time. He said the speed of the train was not known.
The train had only partially emerged from a tunnel with much of it still inside. So many passengers were forced to scramble out of doors and windows and scale the sides of the train to walk along the roof to safety.
Television footage and photos posted from the scene on the website of the official Central News Agency showed people climbing out of the open door of a railcar just outside the entrance to the tunnel. The inner wall of one car was pushed all the way into the adjacent seat.
An investigation has been launched into the crash, and there was no immediate word about any arrests.
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.
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’.