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Taiwan president urges probe into fatal train crash

Eighteen people were killed and 187 injured in the accident.

Workers survey the aftermath of the derailment in Yilan County, north-eastern Taiwan (AP Photo)
Workers survey the aftermath of the derailment in Yilan County, north-eastern Taiwan (AP Photo)

Taiwan’s president has pressed for a quick, transparent probe into the cause of the island’s worst train crash in nearly three decades.

Crash investigators are examining the wreckage after the eight-car Puyuma Express ran off the tracks in Yilan County as it went around a bend where the maximum speed is 47 mph.

Video footage obtained by local media showed the train striking and toppling a beam and ripping down metal structures from above the tracks as it crashed.

Everyone cares a lot about the cause of the accident Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

Eighteen people were killed and 187 injured in the crash that left most of the cars damaged and five overturned in a zig-zag pattern around the tracks. Rescuers searched through the night for more victims before work crews moved the derailed cars upright to assist the investigation.

“Everyone cares a lot about the cause of the accident,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement from her office.

“Therefore we request that the investigating departments must as soon as possible make clear the timing and situation of the whole accident from start to finish and be able to give citizens a report.”

That report may take more than a day as investigators do interviews and check records, a Taiwan Railways Administration spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. The speed of the train was not being released due to the pending investigation, but has not been ruled out as a cause.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called for an investigation into what caused the crash (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

The Taiwan Railways Administration said it has not released any official video pending the investigation.

Survivors told Taiwan’s official Central News Agency the driver applied emergency brakes multiple times before the train derailed. One told local television reporters the train sped up after taking the curve.

Crash investigators checked inside and underneath the now-upright cars for evidence. The Yilan County prosecutor also surveyed the wreckage as her office talked to witnesses.

The six-year-old trains are designed to tilt when going around curves.

Taiwan Railways bought the Puyuma cars in 2011 from Japanese maker Nippon Sharyo. The seller said then that the trains were part of an upgrade of the line along Taiwan’s east coast.

Eighteen people were killed in the crash (Taiwan Railways Administration via AP)

The train that derailed had its most recent inspection and major maintenance work in 2017, Taiwan Railways director Lu Chie-shen said at a televised news conference.

Mr Lu offered to resign on Monday, an offer that is not unusual in Taiwan in such situations. It is not yet certain if his offer would be accepted or if he would be asked to stay as the investigation continues.

Five people killed including a nine-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl belonged to a single family. Three students and two teachers who died were from the same school.

Some passengers were crushed to death, Ministry of National Defence spokesman Chen Chung-chi said. Of the total injured, seven were still receiving intensive hospital care on Monday morning, county news liaison Liu Ya-chih said. No one had life-threatening injuries, she said.

The train had been carrying more than 360 passengers on a popular weekend route from a suburb of Taipei in the north to Taitung, a city on Taiwan’s southeast coast.



From Belfast Telegraph