Almost 50 Dead As Taiwan Train Derails Inside Tunnel

A rescue worker at the site after a train derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien Taiwan on Friday | REUTERS

A Taiwan express train with nearly 500 aboard derailed in a tunnel on Friday after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank onto the track, killing at least 50 passengers and injuring 146 in the island's worst rail disaster in seven decades. More than 69 people have since been taken to hospitals in the surrounding Hualien County for treatment.

Authorities said it apparently hit a truck that slid off a road leading to a nearby construction site.

In fact, a yellow trailer vehicle could be seen lying on its side next to the derailed train at the tunnel entrance in the videos that have surfaced from the accident spot.

"This is our initial understanding and we are clarifying the cause of the incident", he added.

The crash occurred near the Toroko Gorge scenic area on the first day of a long holiday weekend when many people were using trains on Taiwan's extensive rail system.

One young man interviewed by Taiwanese media at a hospital said he had travelled with friends for the holiday but now had no idea where they were. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen issued a statement saying "rescuing those trapped is our highest priority now".

The accident occurred on Taiwan's eastern railway line around 9:30 a.m. (0130 GMT) near the coastal city of Hualien.

With much of the train still trapped in the tunnel, escaping passengers were forced to scale doors, windows and roofs to reach safety.

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"Many people were crushed under train seats in the collision".

A live broadcast by UDN outside the tunnel showed a row of undamaged train carriages with rescuers helping passengers escape.

The eight-car train was travelling from Taipei to the southeastern city of Taitung and was carrying about 350 passengers.

Images showed an injured passenger carried away on a stretcher, with her head and neck in a brace, while others gathered suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage as some walked on the train's roof to exit the tunnel.

During the festival, people return to ancestral villages to tidy up the tombs of their relatives and make offerings. The lightly populated east is popular with tourists, many of whom travel there by train to avoid mountain roads.

Prime Minister John Briceño also tweeted from his personal account, "The Belizean people and I are saddened by the train accident in #Taiwan that has killed over 50 people and left many others injured".

In 1948, 64 people are estimated to have died when a train burst into flames in northern Taiwan.

The island's worst crash in recent history was in 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided. The train's driver was listed among those dead, while several other casualties have yet to be identified. He said the crash was the worst-ever in Taiwan.

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