Sun, Mar 02, 2003 - Page 1 News List

17 die, 156 injured in Alishan train crash


A carriage of the Alishan mountain railway lies on its side after derailing and tumbling into a chasm near Shengmu station yesterday afternoon. Two other cars also derailed and plunged into the chasm but did not overturn. Seventeen poeple were killed and 156 injured.


Seventeen people were killed and 156 injured when a mountain train derailed on a bridge in Alishan yesterday.

Most of the injured suffered fractures or breathing difficulties. Four of the dead were children.

Yesterday's accident was the worst of the 10 that have taken place on the Alishan railway since 1962, according to the Taiwan Forestry Bureau which is responsible for the railway's operation.

The accident took place at 2:07pm, shortly after the train, carryings around 200 people, departed from Alishan Railway Station.

The train was composed of four carriages, of which three derailed with one tumbling 6m into a chasm by the side of the track.

"The cars suddenly left the rails and fell over," one female passenger -- her face and hands streaked with blood -- told FTV cable news from a hospital bed.

"The car was filled with people. Some were standing," said the woman, who wasn't identified. "I looked at my daughter and saw her internal organs. I don't know where my daughter is now."

Witnesses said the tragedy might have occurred because the train was traveling too fast.

Police have detained the train driver, who said that the brakes on the train failed, a claim backed up by initial investigations into the causes of the crash.

The ruggedness of the mountain terrain and limited road access to the area made rescue operations very difficult, rescuers said.

Helicopters were dispatched to help evacuate injured passengers.

The derailment tragedy was nearly compounded when one helicopter, packed with injured travelers, was forced to make an emergency landing after catching its tail on a tree as it was taking off.

Fortunately, all 15 people on the helicopter, five crew and 10 injured travelers, were safe after the emergency landing.

All passengers on the train were evacuated by 4:39pm. The injured were sent to local hospitals.

The Council of Agriculture said yesterday that the families of those who died may claim at least NT$4.1 million in compensation from the railway system's travel insurance.

The Alishan train service has been completely suspended since the accident. There is as yet no indication of when it might restart

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) cancelled his schedule, which involved watching a baseball game in Taipei, because of the tragedy. Chen, still managing to preside over the game's opening ceremony, apologized for his unexpected departure.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun asked government agencies to offer any help they could to the rescue operations

Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) dispatched soldiers to join the rescue operations immediately after being informed of the accident.

Soldiers bringing medical kits and warm clothing arrived at the scene at 3:30pm. Two helicopters were deployed to help transport the injured.

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