Taiwanese prosecutors have identified a construction site manager whose lorry is suspected of causing a train crash, which has killed at least 51 people and left over 156 injured.
It’s believed the train hit an unmanned lorry which slid 20m down a hillside onto the railway tracks as a result of its emergency brake not being properly engaged.
This shot the first four carriages into an upcoming tunnel, which resulted in the majority of the passenger mortalities. It’s estimated authorities have been able to rescue around 100 people from these carriages, which were violently crumpled upon impact.
Speaking to Taiwan’s United Daily News, one survivor said those stuck in the tunnel had to break the window in order to escape.
“It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor,” she said. “We broke the window to climb to the roof of the train to get out.”
Another injured passenger said many were crushed underneath the train seats, which caused them to lose consciousness.
“Many people were crushed under train seats in the collision. And there were other people on top of the seats. So those at the bottom were pressed and crushed and lost consciousness,” she said.
“At the beginning, they still responded when we called them. But I guess they lost consciousness afterwards.”
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The accident, which has become the country’s worst train disaster in 73 years, occurred on Friday morning at 9am on the weekend of Taiwan’s Tomb Sweeping Day, a national holiday in which families remember and celebrate their ancestors. The holiday often sees many city workers return to their hometowns, which accounts for the busy train.
Carrying around 480 passengers, the train was travelling from Taiwan’s capital of Taipei in the country’s north to Taitung in the south, before the collision happened in Hualien, just over two hours into the journey.
According to local news website UDN, the train driver is among those dead, with images showing the front of the train inside the tunnel had been pulverised into a twisted mesh of metal.
Other images of the scene showed the back of a yellow flatbed truck on its side next to the train.
“There was a construction vehicle that didn’t park properly and slid onto the rail track,” Hualien county police chief Tsai Ding-hsien told reporters.
“This is our initial understanding and we are clarifying the cause of the incident,” he added.
Feng Hui-sheng, deputy director of Taiwan Railways Authority, told reporters that the driver “was suspected of not pulling the parking brake tight enough so the vehicle slid 20 metres … onto the train line.”
The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018 and left 18 people dead at the southern end of the same line.
Another crash in 1991, saw 30 passengers 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.
– with AFP