At least 48 dead after vehicle hits train, causes derailment in Taiwan

Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation Centre shows the scene of where a train derailed inside a tunnel in the mountains of Hualien eastern Taiwan

Dozens of people are feared dead after a packed train derailed inside a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday at the start of a long holiday weekend, with rescuers still scrambling to reach others trapped inside.

"At present it is suspected (that) the vehicle wasn't braked properly, (and) slid for around 20 meters along the site access road", Feng said.

Passengers climbed onto the roof of the derailed trail.

The front part of the train was situated outside the tunnel, and those in carriages still in the tunnel were being led to safety, Taiwan's railway administration said.

The express train that derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan was manufactured by Hitachi Ltd. and started operations in May 2007 as Taiwan's first tilting rail vehicle, the major Japanese conglomerate said.

Images from the scene showed some carriages ripped apart by the impact, with others crumpled, hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers. "At the beginning, they still responded when we called them".

An investigation has been launched into the crash, and there was no immediate word about any arrests.

Friday's crash looks set to be one of Taiwan's worst railway accidents on record.

'Our train crashed into a truck, ' one man said in a video aired on Taiwanese television, showing pictures of the wreckage.

Belize's Ministry of Foreign Affairs took to its official Twitter account and said, "Belize extends honest condolences to the Government and People of Taiwan following the sad news of a train accident in eastern Taiwan".

March 8, 1981: A train hit a truck near Hsinchu on a level crossing, killing the truck driver and 30 passengers on the train.

In a tweet, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said emergency services "have been fully mobilised to rescue & assist the passengers & railway staff affected. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure their safety in the wake of this heartbreaking incident". He said the speed of the train was not known.

Railway police said 34 passengers had died.

Television footage and photos posted by people at the scene on the website of the official Central News Agency showed people climbing out the open door of a railcar just outside the entrance to the tunnel.

The eight-carriage train was packed with some 480 people heading down the east coast for the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a four-day public holiday.

The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018, which left 18 people dead.

In 1991, two trains collided in Miaoli County, western Taiwan, resulting in 30 fatalities and injuring more than 100.

Friday's crash could be the island's worst rail disaster in decades.

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