Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hill

The driver of a truck which slid off a sloping road before ploughing into an oncoming train is being questioned by police following reports the handbrake was not engaged. The Taiwan express train with almost 500 aboard derailed in a tunnel today, killing at least 48 passengers and injuring more than 100 in the island’s worst rail disaster in almost four decades. The crash, north of the eastern city of Hualien, killed the driver of the train – who had reportedly only recently got married.

It was carrying many tourists and people heading home at the start of a long weekend traditional holiday to tend to family graves. Images from the scene showed carriages in the tunnel ripped apart by the impact, with others crumpled, hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers, although by mid-afternoon local time no one was still trapped. Did you witness the crash?

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Images from the scene showed carriages in the tunnel ripped apart by the impact

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The official Central News Agency has now said the unnamed truck driver had been taken in by investigators. “People just fell all over each other, on top of one another,” a woman who survived the crash told domestic television. “It was terrifying. There were whole families there.”

Taiwan media said many people were standing as the train was so crowded, and were tossed about by the crash impact. Media showed pictures of survivors being led out of the tunnel.

Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillThe train derailed and crashed inside a tunnel Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillMany people remained trapped for hours

The train, travelling from Taipei, the capital, to the southeastern city of Taitung came off the rails after apparently hit the crane truck from a nearby construction site. At the scene, Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung told reporters that it had been carrying about 490 people, higher than an earlier figure of 350 provided by fire authorities.

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.

Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillRescue workers carry a body bag on a stretcher Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillA firefighter watches as rescuers move body bags

“Our train crashed into a truck,” one man said in a video on Taiwan television that showed pictures of the wreckage. “The truck came falling down.” Passengers in some train carriages still in the tunnel had to be led to safety, the railway administration said. Images showed an injured passenger carried away on a stretcher, with her head and neck in a brace, while others gathered suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage as some walked on the roof of the train to leave the tunnel.

Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillPassengers being rescued from a derailed train Taiwan train crash: Truck driver 'forgot to put handbrake on' before it slipped down hillAt least 100 people were injured

The accident came at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.

Taiwan’s mountainous east coast is a tourist destination. The railway that snakes down from Taipei hugs the coast and is known for its tunnels, in one of which the crash took place. The link to Taipei opened in 1979.

Taiwan’s state-owned railways are generally reliable and efficient, but have had a patchy safety record over the years.

In 2018, 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the island’s northeast.

In 1981, 30 were killed in a collision in its north, while a train crash in 1991 killed 30.

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