TAIPEI, Taiwan — At least 22 people were killed and 171 others injured after a passenger train derailed late Sunday afternoon in northeastern Taiwan on a coastal route popular among tourists, railroad officials and local news reports said.
The Puyuma Express train was carrying 366 passengers from Shulin in New Taipei City, in the north, to Taitung, a city on Taiwan’s southeast, when it went off the tracks near Xinma Station in Yilan County about 4:50 p.m. local time.
Images on social media showed the mangled wreckage of the train carriages in a zigzag pattern near the tracks, and injured passengers lying on the ground. Five of the eight carriages were reported to have overturned.
Some passengers were crushed to death, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defense, Chen Chung-chi, said, according to The Associated Press. “Their train car turned over. They were crushed, so they died right away.”
About 120 soldiers were called to the site to help remove bodies so that they could be identified, he added, but nightfall was complicating rescue work.
Video footage showed emergency workers pulling people from the wreckage in Yilan County. Most of the deaths were in the first car, which flipped over, a government spokesman said, according to The A.P.
On Sunday evening, as many as 30 people were still trapped in the wreckage, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
Local television reports said that passengers were trying to escape through train windows and that bystanders had gathered to help them before rescuers arrived, The A.P. said.
The country’s transport ministry said later Sunday night that 22 people had died and 171 other injured. It said a 43-year-old American woman was among those injured, CCN said.
The Taiwan Railways Administration said it had formed a disaster response team to investigate the cause of the crash. The injured were being treated at four hospitals.
A local official told United Daily News, a Taiwan newspaper, that the conductor said an unidentified object had been on the tracks and may have caused the train to derail.
Train accidents are fairly rare in Taiwan, with the last crash of a similar scale taking place in 2003, when a train serving the mountain tourist destination of Ali Mountain derailed, killing 17 people and injuring 156 others.
In 2011, at least six people were killed and more than 50 others injured after a tree collapsed into the path of a tourist train also serving Ali Mountain.