Taiwan: Dozens feared dead in train crash

Images from the scene show some carriages ripped apart by the impact with others crumpled hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers

Reports said a truck fell from a cliff above and landed on the tracks.

A train carrying hundreds of people derailed in Taiwan on Friday, killing at least 50 people. "It was terrifying. There were whole families there".

"The top priority now is to rescue the stranded people", her office said in a statement.

The train, travelling from Taipei, the capital, to the southeastern city of Taitung came off the rails after apparently hitting a truck that had slid off a road from a nearby construction site.

Dozens more have been injured, with rescuers trying to access several badly damaged carriages.

Some media outlets reported 350 passengers were on board at the time.

The official added that an investigation had been launched into the crash and police had questioned one person about the truck.

The truck's emergency brake was not properly engaged, according to the government's disaster relief center, and the vehicle slid about 20 metres down a hillside.

Survivors described their terror as the train slammed into the truck and ground to a halt.

"It suddenly came to a stop and then everything shook", one survivor told local television.

On Saturday, two of the train's three rear cars, which stopped before entering the tunnel, were hauled up by crane and placed on new rails that were installed overnight.

Taiwanese railway officials will be required to conduct sweeps along other tracks in the system to "prevent this from happening again", Su Tseng-chang, the country's premier, said.

Numerous passengers would have been traveling for the first day of the four-day Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping Festival - an annual pilgrimage to the gravesites of ancestors. The railway that travels from Taipei down the coast is known for its tunnels.

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

With much of the train still inside the tunnel, many escaping passengers had to scramble out of doors and windows and scale the sides of the train to walk along the roof in darkness to safety.

Taiwan is a mountainous island, and most of its 24 million people live in the flatlands along the northern and western coasts that are home to most of the island's farmland, biggest cities and high-tech industries.

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

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