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Service partially resumed after a derailed train near Xinma Station in Yilan county, Taiwan, was removed on Monday. HUANG SHIH-CI/CHINA TIMES

Overspeed causes Taiwan deadly train derailment: preliminary investigation

A preliminary investigation showed that speeding was the cause to Taiwan"s worst train disaster in decades, which claimed 18 lives and left nearly 200 people injured Sunday.

An official in charge of the investigation said Monday evening that the express train was going too fast when it entered a section of a curved track, before it ran off tracks in Xinma Station, Yilan County. The radius of the curved rails is about 300 meters with a designated turning speed of 75 kph, but the train was running over 80 kph, and perhaps even over 100 kph when the accident happened.

The cause of the speeding, however, still awaits further investigation, the official said.

Local procuratorial authority in Yilan has filed a case to the local court for detaining the driver, identified by surname as You, on suspicion of causing deaths by negligence.

Two women from Chinese mainland hurt; passengers felt intense shaking on trip

Two female passengers from the Chinese mainland were among the injured, the railway authority said.

All eight cars of the express train derailed, and three of them overturned.

The train, Puyuma Express No 6432, was bound for Taitung from Shulin Station, with 366 passengers aboard. It came off the tracks at 4:50 pm at Xinma Station in Yilan county.

Of those who died, the youngest was 9. Two students, aged 12 and 13, from a junior high school in Taitung were also killed.

One of the two passengers from the mainland, surnamed Yao, 44, was in critical condition. The other, surnamed Tan, 55, was slightly injured and was discharged from the hospital.

Mainland authorities mourned those who died in the derailment and sent condolences to their families, as well as to the injured.

The mainland has paid close attention to the accident, according to officials from the State Council"s Taiwan Affairs Office and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.

Passengers who survived the crash said the train had been shaking intensely during the journey and was going "very fast" before it derailed.

"The train stopped twice and we were told that there were problems that needed repair but the train restarted not long after," one passenger, who identified herself as Mrs Chiu, told reporters.

"We felt that the speed was too fast, then there was a crashing sound and we flew off our seats," she said, adding that many passengers were sleeping at the time.

An official from the Taiwan Railways Administration said the train driver had reported a pressure device used for braking had malfunctioned 30 minutes before the accident, but that should not have caused the train to go too fast.

The crash, the worst in the Taiwan railway system in more than three decades, happened on a popular line along the island"s east coast. Services partially resumed on Monday morning.

The Puyuma Express was launched in 2013 to handle the rugged topography of Taiwan"s east coast. It is distinct from the high-speed railway that runs along the west coast.

The Puyuma trains travel up to 150 kilometers per hour, faster than any other trains in Taiwan except for the high-speed railways.

The Taiwan Railways Administration bought the Puyuma from Japan"s Nippon Sharyo in 2011 in a 30 billion yen ($260 million) deal.

The train that derailed had its most recent inspection and major maintenance work in 2017, Taiwan Railways Administration Director Lu Chie-shen said in a televised news conference.

It was at least the third deadly train crash in Taiwan since 2003.

A tourist train overturned in the southern mountains in 2011 after a tree fell onto the tracks. Five passengers from the mainland were killed.

In another incident, a train on a test run ignored a stop sign and crashed into another in northeastern Taiwan in 2007. Five people were killed.

And in 2003, a train derailed near a mountain resort, killing 17 people. Investigators blamed brake failure.

Xinhua-AP-AFP