Taiwanese authorities have requested an arrest warrant for the driver of a construction vehicle, which is said to be the cause of the derailment of trains, which killed at least 50 people.
The Taroko Express was carrying nearly 500 people along the island’s east coast on Friday, the first day of a religious festival when families gather to honor their ancestors when it crashed into a tunnel near the town of Hualien.
Police believe the train hit a truck that slid down an embankment from the maintenance site to the tracks. The front carriages of the train derailed and piled up inside the tunnel, crushing against the walls, splitting and tearing.
Dozens were killed, including the 33-year-old train driver, a six-year-old girl and a French citizen. More than 70 others were locked inside for hours, while other survivors broke windows and crawled on the roof of the train to escape.
The driver of the truck was not in it at the time of the landslide and the police suspect that it was “parked incorrectly”. He was taken in for questioning on Friday afternoon, and Hualien Prosecutor’s Office Director Yu Hsiu-duan later told reporters that an arrest warrant had been requested.
“In order to preserve the relevant evidence, we have several groups of prosecutors at the scene and they are looking for the necessary places,” Yu said.
More than 150 people were injured in the crash, and 48 people were pronounced dead at the scene. Two of the wounded later died at the hospital.
Authorities have warned that the death toll could still rise as some parts of the body have not yet been properly identified. A rescuer at the crash site also said they were not sure if there could still be bodies in the wrecked cars still stuck in the tunnel.
A Red Cross savior told local media that the scene on arrival was “like living hell” and suggested that there were many children and babies among the dead.
“The chairs were crooked, objects were scattered on the floor and there was blood everywhere,” Lin Chi-feng told CNA.
“It was heartbreaking to see so many children and babies die in the accident,” he said.
All survivors were released from the wreckage on Friday afternoon, and rescue crews began clearing the rear wagons from the track on Saturday, but the damaged wagons remained stranded inside the tunnel. Railway officials said it would take another week to clean up the site and resume services.
The Taiwanese government has ordered all flags to be lowered to half mast for three days to honor the victim of the worst railway crash to hit the island in decades. President Tsai Ying-wen was expected to visit wounded survivors in hospitals on Saturday.