An eight-car passenger train in Eastern Taiwan derailed on April 3, killing at least 50, including the train driver and a French citizen, and injuring hundreds. The Taitung-bound train was north of Hualien when it derailed in a tunnel, which caused further damage as the cars collided with the tunnel walls, reports CNN. Authorities confirmed they removed all the passengers from the wreckage, although some of the dead have yet to be identified.
Photos and videos of the crash site from The Guardian show pieces of the train scattered through the tunnel, blocking entrances and exits to some of the affected carriages. Rescuers struggled to access the front carriages, which were deepest in the tunnel and the hardest hit by the accident. Dozens of people were trapped in their carriages and under rubble for hours, and the few who could walk out resorted to breaking windows and climbing along the roof of the train to escape the wreckage.
Authorities believe the derailment was caused by the manager of a nearby construction site. It is believed that a truck belonging to the manager, Lee Yi-hsiang, slid down a bank next to the track because the brake was not properly engaged. The Guardian reports that the train driver most likely had less than 10 seconds to react to the truck and stop the train. According to Reuters, the manager accepted responsibility for the disaster – Taiwanese prosecutors are seeking an arrest warrant for him. Lee was originally arrested and released on bail, but a Hualien court had him detained again because they believed he might hide or destroy evidence linking him to the accident.
In a statement to the press, Lee said, “I deeply regret this and express my deepest apologies…I will definitely cooperate with the prosecutors and police in the investigation, accept the responsibility that should be borne, and never shirk it. Finally, I once again express my sincerest apologies.”
Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung told the Associated Press that repairs will be as quick as possible, and said after seeing the crash site, “When such a thing happens, I feel very sorry and I will take full responsibility.” The minister offered his resignation but said he would stay on until the situation is resolved to “shoulder responsibility” in the aftermath of the accident.
President Tsai Ing-wen visited hospitals near the crash, and after speaking with several families, told the Associated Press: “This heartbreaking accident caused many injuries and deaths. I came to Hualien today to visit the injured and express my condolences to the deceased passengers’ families,” Tsai said. “We will surely help them in the aftermath.”
President Tsai has asked the Transportation Safety Committee to conduct a strict investigation into the accident. Her government has also said it will compensate families for each person killed in the accident, reports the New York Times. The amount is currently expected to be about $190,000 for each person, although the number is not yet finalized.