Taiwan: Prosecutors seek arrest after train crash which killed 50




Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021
Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021  

Prosecutors in Taiwan want to arrest a construction site manager whose lorry is suspected of causing a train crash in which at least 50 people died.

The train hit the lorry when it slid onto the tracks from the site, trapping hundreds in the wreckage for hours.

The train, travelling from the capital Taipei to Taitung, was packed with people travelling to celebrate Taiwan's Tomb Sweeping holiday.

Friday's accident is the island's worst railway disaster in decades.

It happened as the train was passing through a tunnel just north of Hualien. Rescuers combed badly damaged carriages inside the tunnel to find survivors, some of whom smashed windows to flee.

Many of the nearly 500 passengers on board may have been standing because the train was so full.

Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021
Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021  

On Saturday, salvage crews started moving the rear carriages which remained relatively undamaged outside the tunnel. The more seriously damaged carriages remain inside the tunnel.

The 408 train is one of the fastest deployed on a network that is generally considered safe. It can reach speeds of 130km/h (80mph).

President Tsai Ing-wen is due to visit Hualien later on Saturday to meet survivors.

'Sudden violent jolt'

The crash took place at about 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT) on Friday.

Some people at the back of the train were able to walk away unscathed, while 100 were rescued from the first four carriages. Many of the dead, injured and trapped were in four crumpled carriages inside the tunnel.

"It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor," one female survivor told Taiwan's UDN. "We broke the window to climb to the roof of the train to get out."

People walk next to a train which derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan, 2 April 2021
People walk next to a train which derailed in a tunnel north of Hualien, Taiwan, 2 April 2021  

Another rescued woman said: "My whole body fell to the floor. I hit my head and it started bleeding."

A 50-year-old survivor told Apple Daily she saw many people trapped under their seats and when she walked out of her carriage she saw bodies everywhere.

Local media reports say the train driver is among the dead.

Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021
Salvage crews remove train carriages north of Hualien, Taiwan, 3 April 2021  

Images show a large, yellow flatbed truck lying at the side of the tracks. A construction project has been under way near the north end of the tunnel.

It is not known how the vehicle slipped down the embankment.

Survivors on stretchers

Other pictures showed people walking along the tracks with their belongings as they were evacuated from less badly affected carriages.

Other survivors were being carried away on stretchers with their necks in braces.

Map
Map  

Many of those on the train are believed to have been travelling to celebrate the Tomb Sweeping festival - a time when people pay their respects to the dead by visiting the graves of family members, sprucing them up and making offerings to their spirits.

The death toll is the highest for a train crash in Taiwan in 73 years. In 1948 in Xindian district in Taipei, a passenger brought flammable material on to a train, causing a fire that burned four carriages, killing 64 people.

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