Death toll rises to 50 in deadliest TRA accident in decades: MOTC

04/02/2021 09:46 PM
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Photo courtesy of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China (Taiwan)
Photo courtesy of the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China (Taiwan)

Update: Crane truck fell onto track within 15 mins before train passes: MOTC (April 3)

Taipei, April 2 (CNA) The deadliest accident involving a Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) train in the past 40 years had left at least 50 dead in eastern Taiwan as of Friday, with 144 individuals injured, the transport ministry said that day.

As of 6:30 p.m., 48 passengers, including one French national, as well as the train driver and his assistant, were killed when the Taroko Express train on which they were traveling slammed into a crane truck as it was entering the Qingshui Tunnel in Hualien County, said Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), deputy head of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).

Another 144 passengers were injured in the accident, which occurred at 9:28 a.m., Wang said.

Among them, 69 were still being treated at six hospitals, while the rest had already been discharged, he said.

Among the injured were two Japanese and one Australian, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The No. 408 Taroko Express train, which set off from Shulin Station in New Taipei at 7:16 a.m. and was headed to Taitung County in southeastern Taiwan, was carrying about 488 passengers and four TRA staff, he said.

It was the deadliest train accident since the TRA in 1978 introduced the Tze-chiang limited express, its fastest train category, to which the Taroko Express service belongs.

While an investigation was continuing, it appears that a crane truck that had been parked on a hill above the track slid down the hill and fell onto the track as its emergency brake was not properly engaged, according to the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board.

CNA photo April 2, 2021
CNA photo April 2, 2021

The train then hit the truck, leaving the first five carriages of the train out of control and piled up inside the narrow, single-track tunnel, the TRA said.

The TRA has been using another track to transport passengers in both directions, leaving a total of 15,508 passengers on 45 trains delayed after the accident for an average of 94 minutes per train, it said.

It will take another seven days for the TRA to clear the site and resume service on the damaged track, it added.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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