The train was travelling to Taitung when it came off the rails in a tunnel just north of Hualien, causing some carriages to hit the wall.
At least 36 people were reported killed and dozens injured after a packed train derailed in a tunnel in eastern Taiwan on Friday morning, authorities said, at the start of a long holiday weekend on the island.
The transport ministry said at least 72 passengers had been injured and sent to hospital while many remained trapped.
Emergency services earlier reported “multiple persons with no vital signs” of life. The Central Emergency Operation Center said rescuers were trying to get to four carriages inside the tunnel that were badly damaged and difficult to access.
A brief video released by the centre from inside the tunnel showed rescuers arriving on the scene and a twisted carriage door.
Another image published by Central News Agency showed several passengers trying to disembark from one of the train’s carriages, with others showing passengers being evacuated on foot.
The eight carriage train, on its way to Taitung and carrying 350 people, came off the tracks at 9:28 am (01:28 GMT) in a tunnel north of Hualien, according to the Taiwan Railways Administration.
Taiwan’s minister of transport and communications Lin Chia-lung said on Twitter he was on his way to the scene of the accident.
“I have instructed the Taiwan Railways to set up a first-level disaster response center,” he said. “I am also rushing to the response center.”
A preliminary investigation suggested that cars two and three appeared to have jumped the tracks, and smashed into the tunnel wall, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
Breaking: A train derailed in eastern #Taiwan earlier today, and according to @Focus_Taiwan, several people are not showing any sign of life. The 8-car train that goes along the east coast had around 350 passengers on board. https://t.co/nQXZAS9BMP
— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) April 2, 2021
Friday marks the start of tomb-sweeping day, known as Qing Ming, and the beginning of a long holiday weekend in Taiwan. Thousands of people are expected to travel across the island to clean the graves of their ancestors and use their free time to visit popular tourist sites like Taroko National Park. Hualien is a popular scenic town next to eastern Taiwan’s famed Taroko Gorge.
Taiwan’s eastern railway line is a popular tourist draw because of its dramatic coast line and scenery.
Taiwan’s last major accident was in 2018 when a passenger train in eastern Taiwan’s Yilan derailed, leaving 18 people dead.
With reporting by Erin Hale in Taipei.