Taiwan derailment kills at least 36, injures many

A train crash in eastern Taiwan has killed dozens of people, in what could be the country’s worst rail disaster in decades.

At least 36 people have died and 44 injured, according to the Ministry of Transport. The fire department said the death toll is likely to increase.

The train, which carried 350 people and traveled from Taipei to the southeastern city of Taitung, derailed on Friday morning near Qingshui, a scenic coast where marble cliffs flow into the Pacific Ocean.

The government said the accident was caused by a construction vehicle that fell from the highway onto the tracks. The train derailed after colliding with the vehicle and then struck the wall of the tunnel.

The first four of the train’s eight cars were warped and half of the driver’s cabin was cut off, according to the Department of Transportation and local media. It took rescuers until noon to get to the train.

The accident happened on the first day of a four-day public holiday, which is usually a busy travel period. Many Taipei residents travel to the east, a popular tourist destination, and locals return home.

Images of the site broadcast on local television showed passengers walking along the train tracks.

In 2018, a train crash in northeast Taiwan left 18 people dead and 175 injured.

Eastern Taiwan is blocked from the rest of the island by towering mountain ranges. The area where the accident occurred is known for its dangerous traffic conditions. The only road connecting the main eastern town of Hualien to the north of the island passes steep cliffs with narrow curves in several places.

A year ago an improved road bypassing some of the more dangerous sections with tunnels was opened. Due to frequent rockfall, the old road also requires almost constant repair work.

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