At least 34 people have died and 72 remain trapped after a train carrying around 350 passengers derailed inside a tunnel in Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Central Emergency Operation centre says rescuers are struggling to access four carriages inside the tunnel that are “badly damaged”. The train was making its way from the capital Taipei to the city of Taitung. Dozens of tourists were said to be onboard, many of whom were celebrating the annual Tomb Sweeping festival.
The train is believed to have derailed at around 09:00 local time (01:00 GMT). Local media reports say the accident occurred when a maintenance vehicle fell onto its path. Pictures online showed people in unaffected carriages walking along train tracks with their belongings. “It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor,” an unidentified female survivor told Taiwan’s UDN.
“We broke the window to climb to the roof of the train to get out.”
Friday’s crash is looking to be the island’s worst rail disaster in decades. The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018, which left 18 people dead. The island’s worst crash in recent history was in 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided.
Many of those on the train are believed to be tourists celebrating the Tomb Sweeping festival – a time when people visit the graves of friends and family, sprucing them up and making offerings to their spirits.
People typically travel during this time to pay their respects to the dead. Local media reports say the train driver is among the dead. Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen issued a statement which said “rescuing those trapped is our highest priority now.”