Taipei, Taiwan — A passenger train smashed into a truck on its tracks and partially derailed just outside a rail tunnel along Taiwan's east coast on Friday, killing at least 48 people, injuring dozens and leaving dozens trapped, local police said. Survivors were forced to climb out of windows and onto train car roofs to reach safety.
The National Fire Service confirmed the death toll, which included the train's young, newly married driver, and said all aboard had been accounted for. More than 100 people were injured, it said.
Railways news officer Weng Hui-ping called the crash, which happened around 9 a.m. on a public holiday near the Toroko Gorge scenic area, Taiwan's deadliest rail disaster.
There were more than 400 passengers on board the train when it crashed, authorities said. Local media said many had been standing because the train was so full, and many were tossed around by the crash.
The train was an express heading from Taipei, Taiwan's capital, to Taitung, a city on the island nation's southeast coast, the Reuters news agency reported. It was packed with tourists and people heading home at the start of the long holiday weekend, Reuters added.
Reports said a truck fell from a cliff above and landed on the tracks, where a train emerging from a tunnel smashed into it. With much of the train still trapped in the tunnel, escaping passengers were forced to scale doors, windows and roofs to reach safety.
The truck apparently hit after the locomotive had emerged, causing the greatest damage to cars 1-5, according to Hualien County's rescue department.
Agence France-Presse says Hualien County Police Chief Tsai Ding-hsien told reporters the truck was "a construction vehicle that didn't park properly and slid onto the rail track. This is our initial understanding and we are clarifying the cause of the incident."
Local media images from the scene showed the back of a yellow flatbed truck sitting on its side next to the train, AFP added.
Television footage and photos posted by people at the scene on the website of the official Central News Agency showed people climbing out the open door of a railcar just outside the entrance to the tunnel. The inside of one car was pushed all the way into the adjacent seat.
The accident came on the first day of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Festival.
Taiwan's last major rail crash was in October 2018 when an express train derailed while rounding a tight corner on the northeast coast, killing at least 18 people and injuring nearly 200.
In 1991, a collision in western Taiwan killed 30 people and injured 112 in its deadliest train accident.
Taiwan is a mountainous island, most of whose 24 million people are squeezed onto flatlands along the northern and western coasts. The lightly populated east is popular with tourists, many of whom arrive along the coastal railway lines to avoid treacherous mountain roads.