Death toll in Hualien train crash rises to 51; injuries climb to 186

04/03/2021 09:59 PM
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Deputy Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材). CNA photo April 3, 2021
Deputy Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材). CNA photo April 3, 2021

Taipei, April 3 (CNA) The number of people confirmed dead in an express train accident in Hualien County on Friday has increased to 51, while injuries have risen to 186, with 41 people still in hospital, the Central Emergency Operation Center (CEOC) reported Saturday.

As of 6 p.m., 49 passengers, as well as the train driver and his assistant on the No. 408 Taroko Express train, had been confirmed dead, said Deputy Transport Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), who is a member of the CEOC.

A French national and two Americans were among the victims, while four of the bodies have not yet been identified, Wang said.

The number of people confirmed injured in the crash had increased to 186, including one Australian, one Chinese and two Japanese passengers, Wang said.

The ill-fated Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) train, which set off from Shulin Station in New Taipei City at 7:16 a.m. Friday, was bound for Taitung County in southeastern Taiwan, carrying 488 passengers and four TRA staff members, according to the center.

At 9:28 a.m., as the train approached the Qingshui Tunnel in Hualien County, it hit a crane truck on the tracks and crashed into the wall of the tunnel. The first five train carriages derailed and some of them crumpled, killing dozens of people and injuring many more, according to the CEOC.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that the crane truck, which had been parked on a hill above the track, slid down the incline and fell onto the track because its parking brake was not properly engaged, either as a result of mechanical failure or human negligence, the center said.

The investigation will focus on the condition of the truck's parking brake, and it will also seek to determine administrative responsibility, Wang said.

According to the CEOC, footage from the train's dashcam has been recovered, and the findings will be released by April 6.

A woman burns incense when taking part in a ritual held on Saturday by the Hualien County government to summon the spirit of a member of her family who died in the train crash. CNA photo April 3, 2021
A woman burns incense when taking part in a ritual held on Saturday by the Hualien County government to summon the spirit of a member of her family who died in the train crash. CNA photo April 3, 2021

Meanwhile, TRA trains are using another track on the eastern route until repairs on the broken section of the railway are completed on April 8, the center said.

In the period midnight Friday to 3 p.m. Saturday, delays averaged 37 minutes per train, with 46 trains, carrying 9,850 passengers, operating on the route, the center said.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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