TAIPEI, Taiwan — A passenger train derailed in eastern Taiwan on Friday morning, killing at least 34 people, the authorities said, in the island’s deadliest railway accident in decades.
The train had been traveling from the Taipei area to the eastern coastal city of Taitung when the accident occurred at 9:28 a.m. in a tunnel just north of Hualien, the island’s transportation minister, Lin Chia-lung, said on his Facebook page. The eight-car train came off the rails, causing several carriages to hit the walls of the tunnel, the government-run Central News Agency reported, citing the fire department.
Around 72 people were injured, according to Taiwan’s railway police.
The Taroko Express train is one of the fastest in Taiwan and typically travels at around 80 miles per hour. The agency said it had been carrying around 350 passengers at the time of the crash.
Local news media reported that the train appeared to have collided with a construction vehicle, causing the derailment. A cellphone video filmed by a passenger showed what appeared to be a yellow trailer vehicle lying on its side next to the derailed train at the entrance to the tunnel.
“Our train crashed into this truck,” said the passenger in the video, which was carried by the Central News Agency. He panned the camera to show a slope beside the tunnel. “The truck rolled down and now the whole train is deformed.”
The Taiwan Railways Administration said it was investigating the situation, according to The Liberty Times, a Taiwanese newspaper.
Photos circulating online indicated the damage was likely severe. In one image carried by the official Central News Agency, a crumpled carriage was smashed against the tunnel wall. Another photo, posted by United Daily News, a Taiwan news outlet, showed what appeared to be the train’s mangled control car on its side in the tunnel.
Local media reported that the train driver was still missing. Other images showed some passengers evacuating from the train as fire department and medical workers tried to enter the carriages inside the tunnel.
The train conductor told a local television station that he had been on one end of the train when he felt what seemed like the emergency brakes being applied and a sudden jolt.
Friday was the start of the annual “Tomb Sweeping” holiday, a time when Taiwan sees a surge in travel. The crash occurred near the Qingshui Cliffs, a sightseeing destination popular among tourists who flock to see towering mountains decline steeply into crystal blue waters.
Mr. Lin, the transportation minister, said that he had ordered officials to set up a disaster response center and that he and other senior officials were rushing to the site of the accident.
In 2018, a Puyuma Express train derailed in northeast Taiwan’s Yilan County, killing 18 people and injuring 170. Taiwanese investigators later found that the train had been going too fast and that the driver had manually disabled an automatic train protection system designed to prevent the train from exceeding safe speeds.
In 1981, a railway collision in Miaoli County, in the island’s northwest, killed 31 people.