Taipei: At least 51 people were killed when a train collided with a truck and derailed in Eastern Taiwan on Friday, officials said, noting that the death toll may rise as recovery efforts continue.
The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) said late on Friday that the derailment in Hualien County involved a maintenance truck sliding from a slope near a construction site above the railway, the DPA news agency reported.
The head of an eight-carriage train with 492 passengers and four crew members travelling from Taipei to eastern Taitung County hit the vehicle shortly before entering a tunnel, officials said.
TRA officials told a news conference that it was suspected that the parking brake was not holding the vehicle and that they were working to gather more concrete details of the crash.
The derailment occurred on the first day of a four-day break for Taiwan’s annual tomb-sweeping tradition. In early April, many Taiwanese people return to their hometowns to pay tribute to their ancestors and clean up family tombs.
The train driver and his assistant were both killed. The 51 victims included one French national, officials said.
The National Fire Agency said that the death toll might rise as some incomplete bodies on the scene were spotted and had not been removed.
The accident also left at least 146 people injured, including two Japanese nationals and one from Macau.
Several carriages were severely damaged in the crash, according to footage aired on local TV. TRA said that it would take a week to remove carriages stuck in the tunnel.
Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang sent his condolences to the families of victims. “I want to express my deep sympathies to the victims’ families and to the passengers who were injured,” Su told a news conference in Taipei.