TAIPEI • The Taiwanese authorities were trying to determine yesterday what caused a passenger train to crash in north-eastern Taiwan, killing 18 people in the island's worst such accident in 27 years.
Among the dead were eight members of a family returning from a wedding, Taiwan's railway authority confirmed.
In addition, 187 people were injured in the Sunday afternoon crash. The Health Ministry said 53 remained in hospital, with 10 of them in intensive care.
Yesterday, the Taiwan Railways Administration released a 12-second video showing the moment the Puyuma Express train derailed in Yilan County. The train was carrying 366 passengers.
The video appears to show the engine beginning to roll over to its left after coming straight off the track before what should have been a turn to the right. The train seemed to show no indication of slowing down before the bend. All eight of the train's cars derailed, some knocking over concrete pylons.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Lai Ching-te visited Yilan County yesterday.
Ms Tsai offered words of consolation as she met relatives of the victims. She also joined Buddhist monks in prayer before an altar next to a county hospital, while nearby, relatives and friends of the victims wept as they went through battered suitcases recovered from the train wreck.
Ms Tsai told reporters: "Everyone is concerned about the cause of the incident and I've asked prosecutors to clarify the situation... and the cause soon."
S'pore sends condolences
The Singapore Government is saddened to learn of the loss of lives caused by the train derailment in Taiwan on Sunday, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).
"We send our condolences to the families affected by the accident and wish the injured a speedy recovery," it said in a statement yesterday.
MFA said there are currently no reports of Singaporean casualties. The Singapore Trade Office in Taipei is in touch with the local authorities.
Singaporeans in Taiwan who need consular assistance are advised to call the Singapore Trade Office in Taipei on +886-2-2772-1940 or the MFA duty office in Singapore on 6379-8800/8855.
A task force and forensic units will determine whether the derailment was "an accident or human error", said prosecutor Chiang Jen-yu as investigators combed through the wreckage for evidence.
Passengers who survived the accident recalled how the train had been shaking intensely during the journey and was going "very fast" before it derailed.
One passenger who identified herself as Mrs Chiu told reporters the train had stopped twice and there had been an announcement that it needed repairs, but it had then restarted.
"We felt that the speed was too fast, then there was a crashing sound and we flew off (the seats)," she said, adding that many passengers were asleep at the time.
Ms Tung Xiao-ling, 43, sobbed as she recounted how she had lost eight of 17 family members, aged nine to 67, as they returned from celebrating her sister's wedding.
"No one can accept that one day, you are a bride, and the next day, you are mourning for a family member," said Ms Tung, who was not on board the derailed train. "I hope they find out what happened as soon as possible. We trusted the safety of Puyuma."
Mr Tung Jin-sing, the father of the bride, was among those who died. He had a successful seafood business in eastern Taiwan. Local reports said he was supposed to have taken the train a day earlier.
Five other family members who were on the train were injured.
Local resident Huang Chang-han, 61, said he had been at a nearby hillside temple when he heard the train crash and saw black smoke.
"We rushed to the scene to help carry the kids and elderly people. There was blood all over. Everyone was busy helping people," he said.
Video footage of the aftermath of the crash, broadcast on local Taiwanese television, showed passengers smashing a window from inside and kicking it away to escape.
An official from the Taiwan Railways Administration said the train driver had reported that a pressure device used for braking had malfunctioned 30 minutes before the accident, but that it should not have caused the train to go too fast.
The railways administration confirmed that a Puyuma Express train also derailed last year on the same line, but no one was injured. In total, Taiwan has a fleet of 19 Puyuma Express trains, all made in Japan.
Officials said yesterday that the search for victims has ended. Cranes have lifted the mangled coaches away from the southbound track and train services have partially resumed.
The crash was the worst rail accident in Taiwan since 1991, when 30 passengers were killed and 112 injured after two trains collided in Miaoli in western Taiwan.
NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS