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50 passengers dead in Taiwan train crash 

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Reuters
(Last Updated On: April 2, 2021)

A Taiwan express train with almost 500 aboard derailed in a tunnel on Friday after hitting a truck that had slid down a bank onto the track, killing at least 50 passengers and injuring 146 in the island’s worst rail disaster in seven decades.

Images from the scene showed some carriages ripped apart by the impact, with others crumpled, hindering rescuers in their efforts to reach passengers.

By mid-afternoon no one was still trapped, though the fire department said it had found body parts, meaning the number of those killed, who included the driver, was likely to rise.

“People just fell all over each other, on top of one another,” a woman who survived the crash told domestic television. “It was terrifying. There were whole families there.”

Taiwan’s government said there were 496 people on the train, including 120 without seats. Many were tourists and people heading home at the start of a traditional long weekend holiday to tend to family graves. One French citizen was amongst the dead, officials said.

The train was traveling from Taipei, the capital, to the southeastern city of Taitung.

It came off the rails north of the eastern city of Hualien after hitting a truck that had slid off a road from a nearby construction site, Feng Hui-sheng, the Taiwan Railways Administration’s deputy director, told reporters.

Feng said the manager of the site, which was stabilizing the mountainside to prevent landslides, visited around 9 a.m. (0100 GMT) and stopped his truck in front of the site office.

“At present, it is suspected because the vehicle wasn’t braked properly, it slid for around 20 meters along the site access road and entered the eastern trunk line,” he added.

The official Central News Agency said police had taken in the manager for questioning.

The fire department showed a picture of what appeared to be the wreckage of the truck beside the derailed train, with an aerial image of one end of the train still on the track next to the construction site.

Survivors described their terror as the train slammed into the truck and ground to a halt.

“It suddenly came to a stop and then everything shook,” one told local television. “It was all so chaotic.”

Passengers in some carriages still in the tunnel had to be led to safety, the railway administration said.

Images showed an injured passenger carried away on a stretcher, with her head and neck in a brace, while others gathered suitcases and bags in a tilted, derailed carriage as some walked on the train’s roof to exit the tunnel.

The accident occurred at the beginning of a long weekend for the traditional Tomb Sweeping Day holiday.

Taiwan’s mountainous east coast is a tourist destination. The railway that snakes down from Taipei hugs the coast and is known for its tunnels, in one of which the crash took place. The link to Taipei opened in 1979.

Taiwan’s state-owned railways are generally reliable and efficient but have had a patchy safety record over the years.

The last major crash was in 2018 when 18 people died and 175 were injured when a train derailed in the island’s northeast.

In 1948, 64 people are estimated to have died when a train burst into flames in northern Taiwan.

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Taliban warns foreign forces to leave by May 1

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

Taliban on Wednesday afternoon warned the US and NATO to stick to the agreement of troops withdrawal on May 1 and said if the Doha agreement is not adhered to problems will be “compounded” and those in breach of the deal will “be held liable”.

In a series of tweets, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement.

“If the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found.

“If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those whom failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

This comes ahead of an expected official announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops with be pulled out by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile said in Brussels on Wednesday that the coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11.

Blinken said it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

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Austin arrives in Brussels ahead of troop withdrawal announcement

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of a planned announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

Reuters reported earlier that a coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11. President Joe Biden is expected to make a formal announcement later Wednesday that will end two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement.

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NATO forces to leave together from Afghanistan: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

A coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels on Wednesday.

His remarks came ahead of a formal announcement of the end of two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

NATO foreign and defence ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement, expected later on Wednesday, for a complete U.S. withdrawal of troops by Sept. 11.

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