An eight-carriage train with more than 350 passengers onboard appeared to have been hit by an engineering vehicle falling from a slope as it passed a tunnel in Hualien county in eastern Taiwan, according to Hualien County Fire Department.
Several carriages were severely damaged in the crash, according to footage aired on local TV.
Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang on Friday expressed his apologies to the passengers and sent his condolences to the victims' families.
"I want to express my deep sympathies to the victims’ families and to the passengers who were injured," Su told a news conference in Taipei, adding that he regretted the incident. He said he would immediately leave Taipei for Hualien.
Rescue team members searching for people inside of the tunnel. Photo: Keelung City Fire Department.
66 injured in hospital
According to the National Fire Agency, 48 people were killed and at least 66 were injured and are being treated in hospital.
The derailment occurred on the first day of a four-day break for Taiwan's annual tomb-sweeping tradition.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen has instructed the authorities to continue their rescue activities and to comprehensively investigate the cause of the accident.
Until now, the last major train crash in Taiwan was in October 2018, when 18 people died.