Deadly Train Derailment in Taiwan


Courtesy of Reuters

On April 2, a train heading to the Taiwanese city of Taitung derailed in the city of Hualien, striking the walls of the tunnel.

Sharon Sun, Photojournalist

Tragedy struck on Friday morning, April 2, when a train carrying 490 passengers derailed in Taiwan in Hualien, the island’s eastern province. 49 deaths have been recorded while 202 people are reported to be injured, making the Hualien Train Accident Taiwan’s deadliest train crash and second-deadliest train accident in its history.

The train’s derailment is attributed to a construction crane truck that had fallen down a nearby slope and landed in the path of the oncoming train that was emerging from a tunnel. Upon collision with the truck, the train entered another tunnel, and its carriages veered off of the rails and smashed into the tunnel walls.

The train had initially been headed from the north of Taiwan to the island’s southern city of Hualien. The accident occurred on the cusp of the long weekend for the Tomb Sweeping Day public holiday. As a result, the train was much fuller than usual, with many people headed down to Taitung to sweep tombs and pay respects to deceased family members for the holiday tradition.

The Taiwanese government has put together a compensation plan for the crash’s affected passengers: $185 thousand USD will be provided to each family of a fatality; $91 thousand USD to each badly injured passenger; and $14 thousand USD to each other injured passenger, according to CNN. These numbers have been converted into USD — Taiwan’s national currency is actually the New Taiwan Dollar. 

Afterward, on April 16, seven were charged with negligent homicide for the train’s derailment. The chief suspect has been identified as Lee  Yi-hsiang, a worker in a construction project set above the tracks, according to Taiwan News. Allegedly, Lee and another worker were driving the truck on a construction site above the railway’s tracks around fifteen minutes before the train derailed. The truck became stuck at a bend, and the two attached a cable to another construction truck in an effort to pull the stranded truck to safety. A few minutes later, the cable snapped, and the truck rolled down the slope onto the train tracks. Just two minutes later, the oncoming train collided with the vehicle.

All seven involved in the accident have been charged with negligent homicide for their failure to safely maneuver the truck and take proper safety measures. Further, the two-week investigation by the authorities has uncovered a number of illegalities in the workers’ project. As a result, Lee and others have also been charged with forgery along with homicide.

Joyce Lin (11), a Taiwanese-American, relays her devastation of the events on the island. “This incident really proves how important it is for people to care about details because sometimes not paying attention to details can cause severe consequences,” she says. “While we send the condolences to all of the families, we should also remind ourselves to prevent these types of incidents from possibly occurring again.”

Ultimately, Taiwan’s tragedy will also hopefully serve as a message and testament to the importance of following safety procedures for the benefit of others.