In October previous year, 300 passengers had to disembark onto the tracks after their train bound for Shulin from Taitung derailed in Hualien county. "I'm not shure she survived", a passenger told reporters.
The railways administration said there had been 366 people on board the service en route to the southern city of Taitung.
"The exact cause of the accident is pending investigation", he added.
A teacher was quoted by United Daily News as saying the train stopped several times before the accident, while other passengers repeated that claim.
Most of the deaths were in the first auto, and it was unclear whether other people were trapped in the train, according to a government spokesman, who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity.
Taiwan's Central News Agency reported that more than 30 people were trapped in the train.
All of the train's eight carriages had derailed and five had flipped onto their side near Xinma station, the railways administration said.
The deputy chief of the Taiwan Railways Administration, Lu Chieh-shen, told a news conference on Sunday that the train was only six years old and had been in "pretty good condition" before the accident.
Emergency medical responders and firefighters are helping the injured and the defence ministry says it has sent 120 soldiers to help with rescue efforts.
According to South China Morning Post, one American is believed to be injured.
President Tsai Ing-wen described the accident as a "major tragedy" in a Tweet Sunday evening. The Hong Kong Immigration Department said there had been no reports of any Hongkongers being hurt, but a spokesman for the department said he was in contact with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
Injured passengers waiting for ambulances at scene of derailment.
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