Dozens Dead in Taiwan Train Crash Caused by Crane on Track: Police

At least 48 people have been killed and more than 150 others injured in a train crash in eastern Taiwan, which police believe was caused by a construction vehicle rolling into the path of a train entering a tunnel.

The train was carrying some 490 people when it derailed in the tunnel close to the eastern city of Hualien. The train is believed to have hit a crane truck that slid onto the track while working on a nearby hillside, according to the Central News Agency. The collision derailed the train, causing some carriages to hit the wall of the tunnel at high speed.

Police are now questioning the driver of the crane truck, according to the CNA, as they investigate the incident. Meanwhile, rescue work is continuing inside the tunnel to search for survivors and evacuate the injured.

Sky News reported that between 80 and 100 people have been evacuated from the first four carriages of the train. But the remaining four carriages were "deformed" in the crash, making it difficult for firefighters to access them. There are thought to be another 70 people still to be rescued.

CNA reported that the crane driver, surnamed Lee, was being question by local police. Police department commissioner Tsai Ting-hsien told the agency that the vehicle was parked on a road close to the a hillside construction site, which sits above the southbound track where the accident occurred.

It is believed that the vehicle's emergency brake was not engaged when parked, allowing it to slide down the hillside into the path of the Taroko Express train, which was travelling from Taipei to Taitung.

Many holiday makers are believed to be among the victims, as the crash occurred at around 9 a.m. local time on the first day of the four-day Qingming Tomb Sweeping Festival weekend. The BBC reported that many people may have been standing when the crash occurred, given how busy the service was.

It is not yet known if any American nationals or residents were involved in the crash. The American Institute in Taiwan—the American government's de facto representative body in Taiwan—said on Facebook that it "sends its deepest condolences to the victims, families, and communities impacted by today's tragic train derailment. We wish the people of Taiwan peace and comfort during this difficult time."

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visited the crash site on Friday afternoon. She told reporters: "We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident."

Responders at site of Taiwan train crash
This photo shows rescue workers at the site where a train derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien, eastern Taiwan on April 2, 2021. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images