Taiwan train derailment kills at least 36 and injures scores more

A train crash in eastern Taiwan has killed dozens of people, in what could be the country’s worst rail disaster in decades.

At least 36 people were dead and 44 injured, the transportation ministry said. The fire department said the number of casualties was likely to increase.

The train, which was carrying 350 people and was travelling from Taipei to the south-eastern city of Taitung, derailed on Friday morning close to Qingshui, a scenic stretch of coastline where marble cliffs drop into the Pacific Ocean.

The government said the crash was believed to have been caused by a construction vehicle that dropped from the highway on to the tracks. The train was derailed after colliding with the vehicle, and then hit the wall of the tunnel.

The first four of the train’s eight carriages were deformed and half of the driver’s cabin was sliced off, according to the transportation ministry and local media accounts. It took rescue workers until noon to gain access to the train.

The crash occurred on the first day of a four-day holiday that is typically a busy travel period. Many Taipei residents travel to the east, a popular tourist destination, and people based in the area return home.

Footage from the site broadcast on local television showed passengers making their way on foot along the rail tracks.

In 2018, a rail crash in north-eastern Taiwan killed 18 people and injured 175.

Eastern Taiwan is blocked off from the rest of the island by towering mountain ranges. The area where the crash occurred is known for hazardous traffic conditions. The only road linking the main eastern city of Hualien to the north of the island passes the sheer cliffs with narrow curves in several places.

A year ago, an improved road circumventing some of the most dangerous sections with tunnels was opened. Because of frequent rockfalls, the old road also requires almost constant repair work.