The president of Taiwan pressed for a quick investigation on Monday after an express train derailed on a coastal tourist route, killing 18 people while sending sleeping passengers flying.
The accident on the popular east coast injured another 187 people on Sunday and left the Puyuma Express zigzagging across the tracks in the worst rail accident on the island in a quarter of a century.
Video footage of the consequences of the accident, broadcast on local television in Taiwan, showed passengers breaking a window from inside and kicking it to escape.
Tung Xiao-ling, 43, sobbed when he told the Reuters news agency how he lost eight of the 17 family members, aged between nine and 67, who were returning from their sister's wedding celebrations.
"Nobody can accept that one day you're a girlfriend and the next day you're in mourning for a family member," said Tung, who was not aboard the train when it crashed. "I hope you discover what happened as soon as possible."
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Local resident Huang Chang-han, 61, told the AFP news agency that he had been to a nearby temple on the hill with a group of people who rushed to help.
"There was a huge explosion, and black smoke, the scene was horrible, beyond words," he said. "We rushed to the scene to help carry the children and the elderly, there was blood everywhere."
The eight wagons derailed and five had overturned sideways.
Among those who died, the youngest was nine years old. Two students of 12 and 13 years of high school in Taitung, where the train was headed, were also killed, according to the Ministry of Transport.
"Everyone is concerned about the cause of the incident and I have asked the prosecutors to clarify the situation … and the cause soon," President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters when he visited the scene.
A task force and forensic units will determine whether the derailment was "an accident or a human error," prosecutor Chiang Jen-yu said as investigators searched the remains for evidence.
& # 39; Sound that crashes & # 39;
The passengers who survived the accident recalled that the train had been trembling intensely during the trip and that it was "very fast" before derailing.
"The train stopped twice and they told us there were problems that needed repair, but the train restarted soon after," said a passenger who identified herself as Ms. Chiu to the reporters.
"We felt that the speed was too fast, then there was a noise and we went flying [from the seats]"he said, adding that many passengers were sleeping at that time.
An official with the Taiwan Railway Administration said the train driver reported that a pressure device used for braking had malfunctioned 30 minutes before the accident, but that it should not have caused the train to go too fast.
Authorities said the search for victims had ended at the crash site in Yilan County, in the northeast of the country, and that no more passengers had been found in the wagons.
"At this difficult time, we pray for the wounded and hope that the deceased can rest in peace," said President Tsai.
The accident was the worst railway accident in Taiwan since 1991, when 30 passengers died and 112 were injured after two trains collided in Miaoli in western Taiwan.