Taiwan scaffolding collapse: Three dead, 48 injured

Image copyright AFP Image caption A car marks a path where the accident happened

At least three people have been killed and another 48 injured in a scaffolding collapse in Taiwan.

The accident happened in the capital Taipei at around 0430 local time (0030 GMT) when two carriages fell 100m (328ft) into a busy street.

This is thought to be Taiwan’s worst building tragedy since the collapse of the Longmenshan apartment block in December last year.

Forty-two people were killed and more than 250 were injured in that accident.

The explosion and blaze that destroyed the tower block was blamed on faulty electrical wiring.

The latest accident happened when a set of carriages on a commuter transportation station’s waiting-area platform slid into a building.

Video taken by Reuters showed overturned carriages that lay motionless on the concrete-covered tracks of a thoroughfare in the Taipei district of Taoyuan.

According to a statement on the Transportation Bureau’s website, the incident happened on a “top deck of a car with underground cable space,” adding: “The carriages were leaning at a 35 degree angle.”

One witness, Mr Liu, told CNN that he was eating at a coffee shop near the platform and was “completely startled” by the accident.

“They showed us the tram car that had fallen,” he said. “I didn’t expect there would be live TV crews there, so there was a lot of confusion.”

Image copyright AFP Image caption Rescue workers examine the scene where the accident happened

Correspondents say the accident will not only highlight the alarming shortage of old tram cars in Taiwan, but also the huge problem of building safety.

“There is not a single cab for 30 years old,” Mr Liu told CNN. “That is the problem.”

Kao Chien-tsang, head of the Taipei Municipal Emergency Management, said local authorities were contacting Taipei residents to provide more information.

“We are mobilising all available resources,” he said.

The victims were initially said to be students from Chinese language school, while the head of the Taiwanese railways authority said three people were killed and another three injured.

More than 30 people were believed to be stuck in cars, but two trains were damaged during the rescue.

Image copyright AFP Image caption According to reports, the passengers were on their way to Beijing

Television footage showed several vehicles damaged in the accident, with rescuers attempting to help passengers freed from cars as smoke rose from underneath the debris.

But Mr Kao told Reuters it was too early to provide an update on casualties.

Mr Kao said a large rescue operation was under way to pull people from the wreckage.

“Right now we do not know the nature of the injury. No information has been given yet,” he said.

Gao An-jin, chairman of the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce in the central city of Hualien, told Taiwan’s DBS TV station: “A vehicle hit one of the carriages and the whole car fell.”

He added that the cable of one carriages landed on the rails of another carriage, causing multiple derailments.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The wreckage of the damaged train car

It is not clear what prompted the cars to fall into the platform.

Sixty firefighters responded to the disaster. Authorities were warning of no work on the tracks for at least another day.

Taiwan’s Transport Bureau said a series of maintenance inspections had been carried out on the area in the last month.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Police secure the area where the carriages fell from the train into the road

The causes of the Longmenshan disaster are being investigated by Taiwan’s public prosecutors’ office.

China and Taiwan maintain diplomatic relations after a landmark 1992 cross-strait handshake, but both have expressed concern at what they see as over-dependence on the other.

After the Longmenshan disaster, the two governments agreed to expand tourism ties further between the mainland and the self-ruled island.

In September, China’s President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to visit Taiwan since the breakdown of the 1970s, sparking concern in Taipei about the impact the visit could have on relations between the two sides.

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