Taiwan crash: Volunteer cosmetologists help bring dignity to the dead

Work to make corpses presentable taking its toll even on experienced volunteers, who break down to mourn

HUALIEN, TAIWAN: Their job is to make damaged corpses presentable.

And these mortuary cosmetologists, all volunteers, are working non-stop to bring dignity to those who died in Taiwan's worst train disaster in seven decades, the Taiwan News reported.

Some 51 people have been confirmed dead after a packed express train slammed into a truck near the eastern city of Hualien on Friday, causing it to derail and its front part to crumple, Reuters reported.


The organisation that helps with the dead is a non-profit known as 76 Monks, which has in its ranks morticians and others in related fields, Taiwan News reported.

The work on this accident is taking its toll, even for the experienced ones, as they have had to work on the bodies of some very young children.

"Some volunteers broke down in mourning for those who perished at such a young age and paused to have a good cry before they could resume work," Newstalk quoted a 76 Monks spokesman as saying.

As of Saturday, 10 bodies had been made presentable, and the organisation hopes to complete its task in a week's time, reported UDN.

Yesterday, the driver of the truck that slipped down the embankment and onto the tracks, Lee Yi-hsiang, read out an emotional statement, AFP reported.

Prosecutors say Lee, 49, either failed to secure the parking brake, or the brake suffered a mechanical failure.

"I am deeply remorseful and want to express my most sincere apologies," he said, his voice cracking with emotion.

"I will cooperate with the investigation by police and prosecutors to take the responsibility I should take," he added.

Lee, 49, was part of a team which regularly inspected Taiwan's mountainous eastern train line, AFP reported.

He had been released on bail, though the high court's Hualien branch yesterday rescinded that decision, Reuters reported.

Taiwan's Transport Minister Lin Chia-lung said yesterday he would not shirk his responsibility for the crash even as his resignation offer was rejected.

"I am also in charge of minimising the damage caused by the entire accident. After the whole rescue work is completed, I believe I will take the responsibility," he said.