msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 4/29/2011 7:49:20 AM ET 2011-04-29T11:49:20

Termites were to blame for a rail accident that killed five people, according to an investigator.

Wang Ya-nan, a member of the team probing the cause of the fatal crash in Taiwan, said termites gnawed a large hole in a 100-year-old tree, causing it to fall and crush an oncoming train.

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All of the five fatalities in Wednesday's accident near the mountain resort of Alishan were tourists from China. Dozens of people were injured in the mishap.

During an inspection late Thursday, the investigator said the hole in the tree was hidden from sight, and that it toppled over.

Officials said the conductor halted the narrow-gauge train after the tree hit one of the cars, but that large branches caused several others to overturn seconds later.

Quoting a report released by the forestry bureau, Taiwan Today said that "experts concluded that the accident was caused by natural forces rather than negligence."

One of the branches was about 40-feet long and about three feet in diameter, Taiwan Today reported.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

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