TAIPEI: Taiwanese prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for a construction site manager whose truck is believed to have caused a train accident in which at least 50 people died.
The crash, Taiwan’s worst rail accident in seven decades, occurred after an express train hit a truck that had slid down a bank next to the track from a construction site. The manager of the construction site is suspected of having failed to engage the brake properly.
The train was carrying almost 500 people on its way from Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to Taitung on the east coast, when it derailed in a tunnel just north of Hualien.
Yu Hsiu-duan, head of the Hualien prosecutors office, told reporters late on Friday an arrest warrant had been sought and that was now was being handled by the court system. “To preserve relevant evidence, we have several groups of prosecutors at the scene and are searching the necessary places,” she said.
Workers on Saturday began moving the back part of the train, which was relatively undamaged having come to a stop outside the tunnel, down the track and away from the site of the accident. The more heavily damaged sections of the train are still mangled inside the tunnel.
President Tsai Ing-wen is due in Hualien on Saturday to visit survivors, her office said. The government has also declared flags should be flown at half mast for three days in a show of mourning.
The accident happened at the start of a long holiday weekend and the train was packed with tourists and people going home. The last major train derailment in Taiwan was in 2018 and left 18 people dead on the same eastern line. The crash was the island’s worst since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli.
Other major crashes that killed dozens have taken place in 1981, 1978 and 1961. Taiwan’s most deadly rail disaster on record was in 1948 when a train caught fire and 64 people perished.