Taiwan train crash: 36 feared dead as rescuers struggle to reach crushed carriages

Our Foreign Staff
·4 min read
Passengers are helped to climb out of a derailed train in Hualien County -  hsnews.com.tw
Passengers are helped to climb out of a derailed train in Hualien County - hsnews.com.tw

A train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday after apparently hitting a truck, and dozens of people are feared dead and more than 61 injured, as rescuers struggled to reach crushed carriages, the fire department said.

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.

The statement said 72 people were still trapped inside train carriages while 61 passengers had been sent to hospital.

The train, travelling to Taitung, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien causing some carriages to hit the wall of the tunnel, the fire department said in a statement.

The train, travelling to Taitung, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien - Cheng Rong-gui/Facebook 
The train, travelling to Taitung, came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien - Cheng Rong-gui/Facebook

The train was carrying around 350 people, and rescue efforts are ongoing, the department said.

Between 80 to 100 people have been 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.

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen put a post on Facebook post, outlining her instructions to rescue personnel and saying "it is our top priority to do our best to rescue the trapped".

A live broadcast by UDN outside the tunnel showed at least two undamaged train carriages with rescuers helping passengers escape.

"It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor," an unidentified female survivor told the network.

"We broke the window to climb to the roof of the train to get out."

A woman who was travelling back home with her husband for the tomb-sweeping festival holiday said there had been a huge bump when the train passed through the tunnel.

A passenger walks alongside the derailed train  -  hsnews.com.tw
A passenger walks alongside the derailed train - hsnews.com.tw

“We were asleep and then suddenly there was an intense strike and I fell down on the floor and my head was bleeding,” she told reporters outside the wreckage. She wore a blood-soaked shirt and with a scarf wrapped around her head that another passenger had given her to stem the bleeding.

The couple had been travelling in the 7th carriage, which flipped over in the tunnel. Her and her husband had to break a window to climb out, and then climb out onto the top of another carriage to get out of the tunnel, she said.

She said as she and her husband had climbed out of the window they had seen one person whom they believed to be dead lying in the carriage.

A man said on social media that his girlfriend had been travelling on the train and was trapped in a carriage that was left stopped in the tunnel, with the carriage leaning against the tunnel wall rather than completely turning over.

"It’s lucky that it happened in the tunnel, otherwise the aftermath doesn’t bear thinking about,” he wrote.

She had told him that many passengers were crying and screaming, and some passengers’ legs had been crushed by luggage. His girlfriend had been asleep with her head in her hands when the accident happened, and so she fell in that position and wasn’t seriously injured despite several jolts as the train applied emergency brakes.

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 part of the derailed train.

Images of the crash scene show carriages inside the tunnel crumbled and ripped apart from the impact, passengers gathering suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage and others walking along the tracks littered with wreckage.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

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

Taiwan's mountainous east coast is a popular tourist destination.

In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in northeastern Taiwan, in the island’s worst rail disaster in more than three decades.