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At least 51 dead in Taiwan's deadliest rail disaster

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A train in Taiwan was derailed on Friday morning killing at least four people

The accident occurred on Taiwan's eastern railway line around 9.30am (0130 GMT) near the coastal city of Hualien.

Taiwan media said many people were standing as the train was so full, and were thrown about when it crashed, and showed pictures of survivors being led out the tunnel.

Rescuers worked for hours to reach those trapped inside the tunnel and haul them out, using buzzsaws to slice through warped sheets of metal.

Images showed an injured passenger being stretchered out of the crash scene, her head and neck in a brace, passengers gathering suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage and others walking out of the tunnel on the roof of the train.

A French national was among those killed while two Japanese and one Macau resident were injured. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen issued a statement saying "rescuing those trapped is our highest priority now".

People further back in the train were able to walk away from the crash comparatively unscathed.

Taiwan's Central Emergency Operation centre says rescuers are struggling to access four carriages inside the tunnel that are "badly damaged".

"It felt like there was a sudden violent jolt and I found myself falling to the floor", one female survivor told Taiwan's UDN.

The train, an express travelling from Taipei to Taitung carrying many tourists at the start of a long weekend, came off the rails north of Hualien in eastern Taiwan, the fire department said.

Taiwan's mountainous east coast is a popular tourist destination, and the railway line from Taipei down the east coast is renowned for its tunnels and route that hugs the coastline.

With the help of multiple tunnels and bridges, it winds its way through towering mountains and dramatic gorges before entering the picturesque Huadong Valley.

"The annual Tomb Sweeping Festival is an especially busy time of the year for Taiwan's roads and railways".

The crash quickly became Taiwan's deadliest rail disaster.

The last major crash was in 2018, when 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the island's northeast.

March 8, 1981: A train hit a truck near Hsinchu on a level crossing, killing the truck driver and 30 passengers on the train.

Taiwanese railway officials will be required to conduct sweeps along other tracks in the system to "prevent this from happening again", Su Tseng-chang, the country's premier, said.

In 1991, a collision in western Taiwan killed 30 people and another crash a decade earlier also killed 30.

Another crash in 1961 killed 48, while a 1978 crash left 41 dead.

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