Taiwan’s transport minister said on Sunday he would resign after he and the manager of a construction site whose truck slipped on a railroad tracks causing a catastrophic train crash accepted responsibility for the disaster.
Lin Chia-lung, in a statement on his Facebook page, said he would resign after the initial rescue work was completed, adding that he “had taken full responsibility.”
“I should have accepted all the criticisms of the past few days, but we haven’t done well enough,” he said.
Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang’s office said before the announcement that Lin made a verbal offer to resign, but Su rejected it for the time being, saying efforts should for now focus on the rescue and the restoring.
In the island’s worst train crash in seven decades, 50 people were confirmed dead after a crowded express train carrying nearly 500 passengers and crew crashed into the truck near the eastern city of Hualien on Friday, the derailing and the front part to warp. .
“ My apologies ”
The truck that the train struck had slipped on a sloping road on the track just outside a tunnel. Officials are investigating site manager Lee Yi-hsiang, whose truck is suspected of not having properly applied the brakes.
Lee read a statement on Sunday apologizing for what happened when police took him away from his residence.
“I deeply regret it and offer my sincere apologies,” he said. “I will certainly cooperate with prosecutors and the police in the investigation, accept the responsibility that must be taken and never shy away from it. Finally, I again express my sincere apologies.
Lee, 49, was part of a team that regularly inspected eastern Taiwan’s mountainous train line for landslides and other hazards.
A Hualien court said on Sunday night that it had ordered Lee to be detained for two months, saying there was a risk that he would destroy evidence. After questioning by the judge and testimonies from prosecutors, he is suspected of having caused the death by negligence, he said.
His lawyer told reporters that Lee wanted to face what had happened and apologized and expressed regret.
Young Hong-tsu, chairman of the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board, told AFP news agency that investigators were combing through the train’s recording devices as well as the front car’s security camera footage.
“According to the testimony of some passengers, they heard the horn sounding and it is believed that the train driver spotted an obstruction in the track,” he said.
But the train driver – who was among those killed – reportedly struggled to stop a collision.
“It is believed that the train driver may have only had 10 seconds at most to react and that there is not enough distance to the emergency brake,” he added.
Some survivors reported that the train did not appear to slow down before hitting the truck.
But Hong said others noticed violent vibrations before the collision, suggesting that the train driver may have applied the emergency brake moments before the impact.
Workers continue to remove the train from inside the tunnel and search for other bodies, and officials have warned the death toll could rise or fall as they verify identities. The government revised the record from a Sunday evening to 50.
The transport ministry and the railway administration under it are faced with several questions, including why there was no proper fencing at the site and whether too many standing-alone tickets were sold for the train journey.
Deputy Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai said on Saturday evening that the railway administration should closely examine all these issues.
The railway administration is without a permanent director after the retirement of its former head in January.
Friday’s accident took place at the start of the Grave Sweeping Festival, a four-day public holiday when many Taiwanese return to villages to tidy up the graves of their ancestors.
The Eastern Taiwan Railway Line, a popular tourist attraction, winds through towering mountains and dramatic gorges before entering the scenic Huadong Valley.
The last major derailment in Taiwan took place in 2018 and left 18 people dead on the same eastern line.
The deadliest rail disaster on record in Taiwan dates back to 1948, when a train caught fire and 64 people died.