At Least 36 Dead After Train in Taiwan Derails Inside Tunnel

President Tsai Ing-wen called the accident “heartbreaking.”
Taiwan train crash
Picture taken and released on April 2, 2021 by Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Center shows where a train derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan. Photo: Handout / Central Emergency Operation Center / AFP

At least 36 people were killed after a high-speed train in eastern Taiwan crashed inside a tunnel Friday morning, as rescuers scrambled to reach the site of the worst railway crash in three decades.

The train, heading to the city of Taitung, was carrying around 350 people when it hit a truck in its path, sending carriages crashing into the walls of the tunnel, according to reports.

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Dozens were wounded and more than 70 passengers were trapped inside the hard-to-reach crash site, the national fire department said. 

The Taiwanese Central News Agency said a truck that was not parked properly likely slid into the path of the train, Reuters reported.

Images of the crash show the carriages smashed inside the tunnel, with wreckage littering the tracks. Passengers were pulled out as rescue teams helped people get on top of the train to safety. Others who were able walked through the tunnel with their luggage. 

The back of the train appears lodged inside the tunnel, with no signs of easy entry for rescue efforts. 

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Picture taken and released on April 2, 2021 by Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Center shows where a train derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan. Photo: Handout / Central Emergency Operation Center / AFP

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen ordered hospitals to prepare for a mass casualty event, and said in a tweet that emergency services had been fully mobilized.  

“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident,” Tsai said in a post to her official account.

The derailment happened at the beginning of Tomb Sweeping Day, a national holiday in Taiwan.

Over a long weekend, families visit their ancestors’ graves to clean tombstones and visit popular sites. Hualien, which is just north of where the crash took place, is near Taiwan’s famous Taroko Gorge. 

Major railway accidents are rare in Taiwan, whose high-speed rail covers much of the country. 

The last incident was in 2018, when a passenger train derailed in Yilan County and killed 18 people. But the death toll from Friday’s accident was the worst since 1991, when 30 people died after two passenger trains collided in Taiwan’s western Miaoli County.