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Taiwan train derailment kills 18 and injures 175

Taiwan train derailment kills 18 and injures 175
The train was on a coastal route headed toward the city of Taitung. (Los Angeles Times)

Authorities in Taiwan said 18 people were killed and 175 injured when the train they were on derailed Sunday in the island’s worst railway accident in nearly three decades.

The Puyuma Express, which operates on a popular tourist route in Yilan County on Taiwan’s east coast, was carrying 366 people when it went off the tracks on a wide curve at 4:50 p.m.

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Five of the eight cars derailed, coming to rest in a zigzag pattern, with some on their sides and others remaining upright.

Rescuers used cranes and other equipment to search the mangled cars. Even after officials said all of the passengers were tentatively accounted for, hundreds of rescuers continued to look for people who may have been trapped under the wreckage.

“Usually passengers on trains can’t use seat belts, so a lot of them got thrown and sustained head injuries,” said Lin Chih-min, deputy director at Luodong Boai Hospital, which treated 65 people.

“As soon as you crash, you go flying,” he said. “Plus the Puyuma’s speed is quite fast.”

Though the train derailed at a small station where it was not scheduled to stop, there were no reports of harm to bystanders.

Railway officials have not released a cause of the accident or said how fast the train was moving. It was capable of speeds up to 93 mph. Its most recent major maintenance was last year.

Taiwan Premier William Lai promised answers.

“This whole matter, we will make it public and use science to understand ... the real reason for this accident to prevent it from happening again,” he said.

He also ordered his government to offer support to victims and their families.

The Puyuma Express began service in 2013 to relieve congestion on east coast railway lines and reduce automobile traffic on the region’s few roads.

Taiwan’s last railway accident of this magnitude was in 1991, when 30 people were killed.

Jennings is a special correspondent.

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12:10 p.m.: This article was updated with a new death and injury toll and other details.

This article was originally published at 4:35 a.m.

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