At least 51 people have been killed and 200 injured after an express train hit a runaway construction vehicle in Taiwan.
The crash, which was the country’s worst rail accident in 70 years, took place on Friday last week at the beginning of the long weekend when many families with children and tourists make use of Taiwan’s rail system.
The youngest passenger to die was a six-year-old girl and the oldest a 79-year-old man.
It is being reported that one French citizen and one US citizen were among the dead and another US citizen is still missing.
A spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told Travel Weekly two Australians suffered minor injuries in the crash.
The eight-car train was carrying about 490 people and was travelling from Taipei to Taitung when it derailed near Taroko.
According to ABC News, the accident was caused by a truck that had slid down the bank next to the track from a nearby construction site. The government’s disaster relief centre said the trucks emergency brake was not engaged properly causing it to move 20 meters down the hillside.
“There was a little over one minute between when the truck slid to the track and the Taroko Express hit it, according to our initial estimate,” the chair of Taiwan’s Transportation Safety Board, Dr Young Hong-tsu, said, according to The Guardian.
Young said the driver and their assistant, who both died in the crash, had tried to break but only had seconds to react.
The train was travelling at 125 kilometres per hour and was only able to slow to 121 kilometres per hour before impact.
Authorities have detained the truck’s driver, 49-year-old Lee Yi-hsiang while they determine if he failed to engage the handbrake or if the accident was caused by a mechanical failure.
Lee told local media he was deeply remorseful and that he will cooperate with the police investigation and take “the responsibility I should take”.
Taiwan’s transport minister, Lin Chia-Lung, announced he would step down on Sunday once the rescue efforts come to an end, according to Al Jazeera.
Lin said in a Facebook post that he “took full responsibility”.
“I should have accepted all the criticism over the past few days, but we have not done well enough,” he said.
The crash coincided with Taiwain’s Tomb Sweeping Festival which is a four-day public holiday that many people use to return to villages and tidy the graves of their relatives.
Featured image source: YouTube/CNA