According to a provisional report, at least 51 people, including a Frenchman, died, and 146 injured after the derailment of a train north of Hualien, in eastern Taiwan, around 9.28 am this Friday. According to the emergency services, all the people who remained stuck inside the train’s carcass for several hours had been extracted at the end of the afternoon.
Handbrake not correctly applied.
Train No. 0408 of the Taroko-Tze-Chiang line connected the city of Shulin, south of the capital Taipei, to Taitung, in the south-east of the island. According to the preliminary investigation findings, the train was struck by a crane truck as it entered a tunnel north of Hualien City. The central cars then crashed into the tunnel walls, trapping nearly 200 people and causing the majority of deaths.
According to Hualien County police, the offending crane truck slipped towards the railroad tracks due to its driver’s mistake, who incorrectly applied the handbrake. Absent at the time of the accident. The latter was working for a railway administration sub-contractor, hired on a site adjoining the railway line. In images relayed on social networks, the construction truck is indeed lying on its side, the door torn off, testifying to the violence of the shock.
The trendy train line
The rescue operations, broadcast repeatedly on Taiwanese television, continued for most of the day. According to the emergency services, the intervention was complicated because several wagons stuck inside the tunnel were strongly deformed by the impact. “Rescue the trapped people is our number one priority,” said the Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, on Facebook at midday. In the middle of the afternoon, the emergency services claimed to have rescued all the trapped people, mainly thanks to soldiers’ support dispatched to the site. On the first day of the long Qing Ming weekend, the accident took place, dedicated to the deceased’s memory and visiting graves, like French All Saints’ Day. On this occasion, much Taiwanese return to their native villages. The Taroko-Tze-Chiang train line, which runs along Taiwan’s rugged and rugged east coast, is trendy. According to the railway authority, the damaged train was thus overcrowded at the accident, with 350 passages spread over eight cars. Commissioned in 1978, the line is several times on the mountainside. It crosses a succession of bridges and tunnels, such as the one where the accident occurred.
This is not the first rail disaster that the archipelago of 24 million people has faced. In 2018, a train derailment killed 18 people and injured 215 others. The driver then deactivated the automatic stopping system to be able to drive beyond the authorized speed.
In reaction to the accident this morning, several voices were raised to recall the difficult working conditions of the employees of the railway company and those of the workers hired on the network’s maintenance sites, regularly subcontracted by the national company. Given the long history of accidents associated with poor working conditions or reduced safety costs, it would not be surprising to know that today’s accident is linked to these problems.