April 2 (UPI) — A passenger train ran off the rails inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday — killing at least 48 people and injuring dozens, officials said.
The Taiwan Railways Administration said in a statement the eight-carriage Taroko Express train was carrying about 350 passengers — en route from Taipei to Taitung — when it derailed in the tunnel north of Hualien city.
Rail officials said victims received moderate to serious injuries and many were sent to hospitals. Rescuers were at one point trying to reach some trapped passengers.
The rail administration said when the train derailed, carriages crashed into the walls inside the tunnel. Not all of the train was inside the tunnel at the time of the crash.
Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen said emergency crews fully mobilized to aid in the rescue operation. More than 60 people aboard the train were hurt.
“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Authorities have not yet given an indication of the cause of the crash. Hualien police said a parked construction vehicle rolled down a slope and crashed into the moving train, CNA reported.
Taiwanese transportation minister Lin Chia-lung said via Facebook that a first-level disaster response center and forward command post were set up.
Friday’s crash occurred on the first day of the Qingming Festival, or Tomb-Sweeping Day, an Asian holiday that often draws large numbers of visitors.
The Taiwan Railways Administration said it has suspended a number of routes through at least Sunday.
Eighteen people were killed and almost 200 were injured in another train derailment in Taiwan in 2018.