Monday, September 27, 2021

Lorry boss apologises for Taiwan’s worst train wreck

There have been mounting questions over how full the train was, and why there were no barricades on that section of the track.

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A construction site manager whose lorry slid on to a railway track and led to Taiwan’s worst train disaster in decades has apologised for causing the death of at least 50 people.

Rescue workers say they may yet find more bodies. More than 200 passengers were injured in the derailment.

Lee Yi-hsiang, 49, said he was “deeply remorseful”. His flatbed lorry was parked on an embankment but slipped down it, causing the train to derail on Friday near the city of Hualien, the BBC is reporting.

Lee was part of a team who regularly inspected Taiwan’s mountainous eastern railway line for landslides and other risks.

He was questioned over the weekend by prosecutors and released on bail, but on Sunday he was taken back into custody because he was deemed a flight risk and had a previous conviction, Taiwanese media reported.

Reading a statement to news crews outside his house, Lee said he would cooperate with crash investigators, and “take the responsibility I should take”. He was then taken away by police.

The eight-carriage train was travelling from the capital Taipei to Taitung when it hit the truck and crashed inside a tunnel north of Hualien.

The train was packed with people travelling to celebrate a long-weekend holiday, and many of the nearly 500 passengers on board may have been standing because the train was so full.

Some survivors lost their whole families, and Taiwan declared three days of national mourning.

Crews are still removing the train wreck from the tunnel. There are fears more bodies could be found.

Investigators have been going through the train’s recording devices and CCTV footage from the front carriage, the chairman of the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board told reporters.

“It’s believed the train driver might have only had 10 seconds at most to react and there was not enough distance to emergency brake,” he said.

There have been mounting questions over how full the train was, and why there were no barricades on that section of the line to prevent vehicles from reaching the track.

Taiwan’s transport minister offered his resignation on Sunday. On Facebook, he wrote: “I should have accepted all the criticism over the past few days, but we have not done well enough.”

The government has not accepted his resignation, however, and said he should stay in the position until the investigation was complete

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