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At least 18 killed, 171 injured after express train derails in Taiwan

November 8, 2018

At least 18 people are dead and 171 injured when an express train in Taiwan derailed Sunday, flipping and toppling carrier cars onto their sides, the Associated Press and AFP reported. The tragedy is the island’s worst train accident in decades.

The Puyuma Express train, commonly used by tourists, was en route from Shulin to Taitung with 366 passengers on board. The derailment occurred around 5 p.m. local time in Lian county in northern Taiwan, along a curve.

Taiwan Railways Administration’s Jason Lu said all eight carriages derailed and five flipped, and that there were “four carriages that were overturned at 90 degrees and the worst casualties were in those carriages,” according to AFP.

Some passengers were crushed to death, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Chen Chung-chi said.

“Their train car turned over. They were crushed, so they died right away,” Chen said.

The cause of the accident is still unknown, though survivors described extreme shaking and electrical outages throughout the final ride.

“All of a sudden, I found myself being thrown out of my seat and some other passengers were flipped out of the windows,” a former soldier told cable television network SET, according to the South China Morning Post.

The AP reported that the Taiwanese government previously put the death toll as high as 22, but “the National Fire Agency, citing the Cabinet spokesman’s office, later reduced that figure and blamed a miscalculation.”

The six-year-old train was in “pretty good condition” according to Taiwan Railways Administration deputy chief Lu Chieh-shen, BBC reported. The administration also promised to compensate families of the deceased in the amount of $81,000.

President Tsai Ing-wen called the accident a “major tragedy.”

The defense ministry deployed 120 soldiers to aid in rescue efforts; an AFP reporter said that bodies continue to be removed from the debris.

On a live feed provided by Taiwan’s United Daily News, rescuers could be seen carrying what appeared to be a body wrapped in white plastic away from the site.

At the scene, searchers walked through an upright car with flashlights. The search-and-rescue work was to continue until early Monday to make sure everyone aboard was accounted for, Premier William Lai told reporters shortly after midnight.

“The underlying cause should be investigated to the maximum extent to avoid anything like this happening in the future,” Lai said. “We will make the whole thing transparent.”

According to South China Morning Post, one American is believed to be injured. The Hong Kong Immigration Department reported they were not aware of any Hong Kong residents who were hurt.

Sunday’s derailment is the country’s deadliest since a 1981 collision that killed 30, but the third deadly accident since 2003. In 2003, a train traveling toward a mountain tourist destination crashed, killing 17 passengers and injuring another 156, and a toppled tree caused a train crash that killed six and injured at least 50 in 2011.

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