Eighteen people were killed and at least 160 others injured on Sunday when one of Taiwan’s newer, faster trains derailed on a curve along a popular weekend route, officials said.
The Puyuma express train was carrying more than 366 passengers from a suburb of Taipei toward Taitung, a city on Taiwan’s southeast coast, when it went off the tracks at 4:50 p.m., the Taiwan central government said in a statement.
WATCH: Inspectors survey wreckage of the train that derailed on its way to Taiwan’s southeast coast
The National Fire Agency cited the Cabinet spokesman’s office as saying 18 people were killed and 160 injured.
Some passengers were crushed to death, Ministry of National Defence spokesman Chen Chung-chi said. “Their train car turned over. They were crushed, so they died right away,” Chen said.
Soldiers have been removing bodies to identify them, he added, but nightfall was complicating rescue work.
Photos from the scene just south of the city of Luodong showed the train’s eight cars in a zig-zag formation near the tracks. Five of the cars are turned over on their sides.
Most of the deaths were in the first car, which flipped over, a government spokesman said.
WATCH: Taiwan train crash deadliest in decades
It was unclear how many people may still be trapped in the train, said the spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. Some 120 soldiers joined firefighters in their rescue work.
On a live feed provided by Taiwan’s United Daily News, rescuers were seen carefully carrying what appeared to be a body wrapped in white plastic away from the site.
Local television reports said passengers were trying to escape through train windows and that bystanders had gathered to help them before rescuers arrived.
The train is 6 years old and its most recent inspection and major maintenance took place in 2017, Taiwan Railways Administration Director Lu Chie-shen said at a televised news conference.
WATCH: Officials begin to remove train cars after Taiwan derailment
Authorities are investigating the cause of the derailment.
© 2018 Reuters