A crowded train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday at the start of a long holiday weekend, with authorities saying at least four passengers appeared dead and dozens more were injured.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s office said she had ordered hospitals to prepare for an event with high casualties.
“The top priority now is to save those stranded,” his office said in a statement.
The accident occurred on the Eastern Taiwan Railway at around 9:30 am (01:30 GMT) near the coastal city of Hualien.
“About four people are without sign of life,” the Central Emergency Operations Center said in a statement, adding that rescuers were trying to access four cars inside the tunnel which were badly damaged and difficult to access. access.
At least 27 people were sent to hospital and dozens were still trapped, the center added.
The Taiwan Railway Administration issued a separate statement saying “many” were without signs of life, citing local firefighters.
A brief video released by the center inside the tunnel showed rescuers arriving at the scene and a crooked car door.
Another live broadcast by local news network UDN showed at least two undamaged train cars outside the tunnel with rescuers helping passengers escape.
The eight-car train made its way from Taipei to the southeastern city of Taitung and carried some 350 passengers.
The accident happened at the start of the bustling annual Grave Sweeping Festival, a long holiday weekend when Taiwan’s roads and railways are usually crowded.
The eastern Taiwan railway line is generally a popular tourist attraction on its spectacular and less populated east coast.
Using several tunnels and bridges, it winds through towering mountains and dramatic gorges before descending into the Huadong Valley.
The last major derailment in Taiwan took place in 2018 and left 18 people dead at the southern end of the same line.
The driver of the eight-car train was subsequently charged with negligent homicide. More than 200 of the 366 people on board were also injured.
This accident was the worst on the island since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli.
Thirty were also killed in 1981 after a truck collided with a passenger train at a level crossing and sent coaches over a bridge in Hsinchu.
In 2003, 17 died and 156 were injured after a train on the Alishan Mountain Railway plunged into a chasm on the side of the track.
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