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Illustration by Security Management

Train Derailment in Taiwan Kills at Least 50, Injures Numerous Others

A train derailed in Taiwan early Friday morning, killing at least 50 people and injuring 150 others in one of the worst disasters in the country in decades.

The train was traveling from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to Taitung when it exited a tunnel and appeared to strike a truck that had slid off the road from a construction site above the tracks. The train—carrying about 490 people—collided with the truck and derailed, with part of the train still inside the tunnel.

“The official Central News Agency said the truck was suspected to have slid off the sloping road into the path of the train, as its handbrake had not been engaged, and added that police had taken in its driver for questioning,” according to Reuters. “The fire department showed a picture of what appeared to be wreckage of the truck beside the derailed train, with an aerial image of one end of the train still on the track next to the construction site.”

Rescuers are working to recover survivors, but the effort is complicated by the fact that part of the train is still inside the tunnel and difficult to access.

“Some people at the back of the train were able to walk away unscathed, while 100 were rescued from the first four carriages,” the BBC reports. “Many of the dead, injured, and trapped were in four crumpled carriages inside the tunnel.”

Taiwan’s Red Cross was on the scene to help free passengers trapped in the crash, and President Tsai Ing-wen said that all emergency services have been mobilized for the rescue effort.

“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident,” she tweeted.

The train was especially crowded due to many people traveling for the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, an annual holiday where families remember their ancestors by cleaning their tombs and offering sacrifices that benefit the deceased.

President Ing-wen said her government will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the collision.

Taiwan has made major improvements to its rail system in the last several years, especially on the high-speed line that connects Taipei to cities in the south, NBC News reports. This has been critical as many residents and tourists rely on the rail system to travel around the island while avoiding mountain roads.

“In the last major train accident, in 2018, 18 people were killed and 170 others injured after a train derailed in northeast Taiwan’s Yilan County on a coastal route popular with tourists,” according to The New York Times. “Taiwanese investigators later found that the train had been going too fast and that the driver had manually disabled a system designed to prevent it from exceeding safe speeds.”