Taipei, Oct. 21－A survivor of Sunday’s fatal train derailment in Yilan County, northeastern Taiwan, said that the driver had applied emergency brakes multiple times before the accident.
The eight-carriage Puyuma express that departed from New Taipei bound for Taitung derailed at 4:50 p.m at Xinma railway station in Yilan. The train had 366 passengers on board. The accident killed 22 people and left at least 171 injured, including an American woman whowas slightly injured, as of 9:30 p.m, according to Yilan firefighters.
According to the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA), all eight carriages of the tilting train left the track and four of them overturned. A passenger told CNA that he had heard strange sounds and observed abnormal signs on the information screen system before the train arrived in Yilan, adding that the driver had applied his emergency brake multiple times.
The accident occurred not long after the train went past Luodong in central Yilan and started to pick up speed, the passenger said. Another passenger said that many passengers were asleep when the accident happened and could not react to the emergency situation quickly.
The Yilan County government said the search and rescue operation would continue through the night until all the passengers had been found.
Meanwhile, Keelung City and New Taipei also dispatched firefighters to assist the rescue efforts. “We are still trying to clear the site and check if more passengers are stuck inside the train,” TRA Director-General Lu Chieh-shen (鹿潔身) said.
According to Lu, the Puyuma express was on a curved section at the time of the accident. However, he said, it remains uncertain how fast the train was traveling when the accident took place.
The train had been in operation for six years and underwent a performance check and maintenance last year. The Puyuma trains are part of a railway upgrade in eastern Taiwan
to help increase rail capacity and allow more travelers to bypass the area’s main roadway, the narrow Suhua Highway, which is highly vulnerable to traffic jams, landslides and road collapses.
Meanwhile, Uni Air said Sunday that it will operate additional flights over the next two days to help meet travel demand in eastern Taiwan in the wake of the severe train derailment in Yilan
The airline will fly round-trip flights B79271/B79272 between Taipei and Hualien on Monday using ATR72-600 aircraft, as well as flights B79275/B79276 on Tuesday using the same model of aircraft.