Taiwan
A train derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien, eastern Taiwan. Image Credit: AFP

Hualien: Update:

At least 49 people were killed on Friday when a packed train derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan at the start of a holiday weekend, the island's worst railway accident in decades.

Officials said the devastating accident could have been caused by a maintenance vehicle falling down an embankment and striking the train before it entered the tunnel near the coastal city of Hualien.

"There was a construction vehicle that didn't park properly and slid onto the rail track," Hualien county police chief Tsai Ding-hsien told reporters.

Local media pictures from the scene showed the back of a yellow flatbed truck on its side next to the train.

The eight-carriage train was packed with some 480 people heading down the east coast for the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a four-day public holiday.

Taiwan's National Fire Agency said 66 passengers were sent to hospital on top of the 49 confirmed dead and some yet to be identified body parts.


Initial reports said the train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday, with at least 36 people feared dead and more than 20 injured, as rescuers struggled to reach crushed carriages, the fire department said.

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.

At least 36 people are believed dead, three people with serious injuries have been sent to hospital and around 20 with light injuries are waiting to go to hospital, it said.

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.

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.