YILAN, Taiwan (AFP): At least 17 people have died after an express train derailed and flipped over on a popular coastal route in Taiwan on Sunday.
The Taiwan Railways Administration confirmed 17 people had been killed and said 132 people had also been injured in the accident in northeastern Yilan county.
The train, Puyuma Express 6432, went off the tracks between the Dongshan and Suxin stations in Yilan county, near Taipei, at about 5pm, the semi-official Central News Agency and mass-circulation United Daily News reported.
Authorities have not confirmed if any passengers remain trapped alive inside the train.
An AFP reporter at the scene said that more bodies were being brought out of the wrecked carriages.
Images from the site showed the Puyuma Express train completely derailed and lying zig-zagged across the track.
All of the train's eight carriages had derailed and five had flipped onto their side at Xinma station, the railways administration said.
“As of 6.30pm there are 17 dead on site and 126 people injured,” the Taiwan Railways Administration said in a statement. Taiwan’s central government said the premier had been notified.
An estimated 30 to 40 passengers remain trapped in the train, which was travelling from Taipei's Shulin station to the eastern coastal county of Taitung with more than 300 people onboard, the reports said.
Photographs posted on social media show five out of the train's eight carriages lie helter-skelter near the tracks at the accident site. Some are lying on their sides.
Some purported photographs of the wreckage show bent stretches of the track piercing through the train's windows.
Hundreds of medics and firefighters despatched to the scene are rushing to take the injured to hospitals and rescue those still in the carriages.
Reports said the army was also sending 100 troops to the site.
One passenger told Apple Daily Taiwan that the train had been shaking during the journey.
The passenger identified only by his surname Ko told Apple Daily he heard sounds that went "pong, pong, pong" before a plume of smoke rose from the tracks.
Many things then fell from the overhead compartments as the carriage he was in tilted by about 10 degrees.
Mr Ko said he and a friend managed to escape unscathed. Another passenger, Mr Chen He-ren, told Central News Agency the train shook violently moments before it derailed.
He added that the train had stopped several times on the tracks for unspecified reasons before the accident happened. Services in both directions along the route have been suspended following the mishap.
Taiwan authorities said the accident had happened at 4:50 pm local time (0850 GMT) with no cause yet given.
The railways administration said there had been 366 people on board the service en route to the southern city of Taitung.
The defence ministry said it had sent in 120 soldiers to help the rescue.
President Tsai Ing-wen described the accident as a "major tragedy" in a Tweet Sunday evening.
"My thoughts are with all the victims and their families," she added.