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/ Source: Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Eighteen people were killed and at least 160 others were injured Sunday when one of Taiwan's newer, faster trains derailed on a curve along a popular weekend route, officials said.

The Puyuma express train was carrying more than 366 passengers from a suburb of Taipei toward Taitung, a city on Taiwan's southeast coast, when it went off the tracks at 4:50 p.m. (4:50 a.m. ET), the Taiwan central government said in a statement.

The National Fire Agency cited the Cabinet spokesman's office as saying that 18 people were killed and that 160 others were injured.

Some passengers were crushed to death, said Chen Chung-chi, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry. "Their train car turned over. They were crushed, so they died right away," Chen said.

Image: Taiwan train derailment
Rescuers look for passengers on the site of a train accident in northern Taiwan on Sunday.Ritchie B. Tongo / EPA

Soldiers were removing bodies to identify them, he added, but nightfall was complicating rescue work.

Photos from the scene just south of the city of Luodong showed the train's eight cars in a zigzag formation near the tracks. Five of the cars were turned over on their sides.

Most of the deaths were in the first car, which flipped, a government spokesman said.

It was unclear how many people may still be trapped in the train, said the spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity. About 120 soldiers joined firefighters in their rescue work.

On a live feed provided by Taiwan's United Daily News, rescuers were seen carefully carrying what appeared to be a body wrapped in white plastic from the site. Local television reports said that passengers were trying to escape through train windows and that bystanders had gathered to help them before rescuers arrived.

Image: Taiwan train crash
Train carriages are scattered at the site of a train derailment Sunday in northern Taiwan.Taiwan Railways Administration via AP / AP

The Puyuma, which was launched in 2013 to handle the very difficult topography of Taiwan's east coast, is distinct from the high-speed rail that runs on the west coast. The trains travel up to 93 mph, faster than any other in Taiwan except for high-speed rail.

The train that derailed is six years old, and its most recent inspection and major maintenance took place in 2017, Lu Chie-shen director of the Taiwan Railways Administration, said at a news conference.