At least 48 people were killed and dozens more were hospitalized on Friday after a construction vehicle rammed into a busy express train on the democratic island of Taiwan.

President Tsai Ing-wen ordered a full investigation into the accident that occurred on the Taroko Express train on its way from the capital Taipei to the eastern coastal city of Taitung at the start of a four-day national holiday.

“The cause of the accident needs a thorough investigation. It was a serious accident with many victims, including the young Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) driver who died while working,” Tsai told journalists.

“We asked the Transportation Safety Board to conduct a rigorous investigation into this accident to fully determine the cause,” she said.

TV news showed several of the train’s carriages hit by the impact of a construction crane truck, which collided with the express, partially derailing it in the Daqingshui Tunnel in eastern Hualien County.

Sixty-six of the train’s 350 passengers were rushed to hospital with moderate to severe injuries after the accident.

According to the TRA, which operates the Taroko Express, the crane truck was parked on a hill above the route.

The driver was questioned by the police about the accident. The TRA stated that the truck’s emergency brake was not on, allowing it to slide down a slope and onto the railroad tracks.

Police in Hualien said the crane truck was parked on a steep hill near the tracks and started rolling, likely because the driver did not apply the emergency brake.

“The people just lay there”

A passenger surnamed Wu told Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), “I got off the train but didn’t want to look at the scene. A lot of people just lay there,” he said.

“It was totally dark. Nobody knew what to do,” he said.

Passengers said the car’s power supply was cut after the accident, preventing passengers from opening the doors. Some texting friends and relatives said they were trapped but safe, media reports said.

Some of the passengers made their way back to their family homes to tend family graves in a four-day festival dedicated to the honor of the ancestors.

Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang, Minister of Transport Lin Chia-lung, and Minister of Interior Hsu Kuo-yung went to the crash site and promised the best medical care. Lin apologized to the nation for the accident.

We will work with prosecutors and the Transportation Safety Board investigation to oversee the emergency repairs, “Lin said.

“This will take about five days due to the damage to the tracks and electrical equipment. This section of the east coast will not be fully operational until after the … vacation ends,” he said.

The island’s military sent more than 100 people in vehicles to assist with the rescue effort, CNA reported.

Reported by the RFA Mandarin Service and Chung Kuang-cheng for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.