A Taiwan express train carrying almost 500 passengers derailed in a tunnel on Friday after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank on to the track from a buidling site.
The site’s manager is suspected of having failed to properly engage the truck’s brake. The train was travelling from Taipei, the capital, to Taitung on the east coast when it derailed in a tunnel just north of the city of Hualien. Forty one people are in hospital.
Prosecutors had applied to a court to detain the manager on charges of causing death by negligence, a justice ministry official told reporters on Saturday. But a court in Hualien released the manager, Lee Yi-hsiang, on a bond of 500,000 Taiwan dollars (€14,895), although it restricted him from leaving Taiwan for eight months and said he had to stay in Hualien.
The court said that while the truck’s fall into the path of the train was possibly due to negligence, there was “no possibility of conspiracy”.
Yu Hsiu-duan, head of the Hualien prosecutors’ office, said they were not pleased with the decision. “The court said there was no reason to keep him in custody,” she told reporters.
Lee’s court-appointed lawyer declined to comment to reporters as he left the court.
Lin Jinn-tsun, head of the justice ministry’s prosecutorial affairs department, said they had lodged an appeal against the decision to release Lee on bond.
Rescue workers assist after a train derailed in north of Hualien, Taiwan, which was carrying almost 500 passengers. Photograph: Ritchie B Tongo/EPA
Family members visited the site on Saturday afternoon to mourn the dead and brought personal belongings with them.
The youngest person confirmed to have died was a six-year-old girl, the oldest a 79-year-old man, according to a government-issued casualty list.
Workers have begun moving the train’s rear portion, which was relatively unscathed as it had stopped outside the tunnel away from the area.
Other mangled sections remained in the tunnel, where fire department official Wu Liang-yun said more bodies were likely to be found. “We’re still carrying out rescue work,” he added.
President Tsai Ing-wen visited hospitals in Hualien to speak to family members and survivors, thanking ordinary people and non-government groups for efforts to help. “This shows the good side of Taiwanese society,” she said.
The government has ordered flags flown at half mast for three days in mourning.
Taiwan’s transport ministry said two US citizens were among the dead, while two Japanese, an Australian and a Chinese citizen were among the injured. – Reuters