Thursday, Apr 15

For Tzu Chi medical front-liners and volunteers, there is humanity in a time of tragedy

April 08, 2021 | Joy Rojas

In the aftermath of the Taroko Express train derailment, the horrific crash last April 2 that claimed the lives of 50 of the 498 passengers and injured over 200, there’s a photo circulating of Dr. Wu Kunji. Squatting in the dark Qingshui Tunnel, his white lab coat stained with grime from the accident, he comforts a frightened little boy wrapped in his right arm.


Dr. Wu, an orthopedic doctor at Tzu Chi Hospital in Hualien, and head of the city’s volunteer firefighters, was one of the emergency responders at the site, assessing and treating survivors’ various injuries. Among them was a member of the little boy’s family—his mother, say witnesses—who sustained fractures and lay conscious on a flat backboard. In his fear and confusion, the boy was crying and wanted to lie next to her. Dr. Wu instinctively held the boy in his arms and spoke to him gently, eventually calming him down. That image has since gone viral, and captures the compassion and relief that the Tzu Chi Foundation is known for.


“Dr. Wu has always been serving with compassion and love. He is always helpful and full of love,” acknowledged Tzu Chi Dharma Master Cheng Yen. “He saw an injured passenger who said that he felt very cold, so Dr. Wu took off his coat and draped it over the injured passenger.”


Also on the scene was Tzu Chi Medical Director Dr. Lin Juin-Long. The 77-year-old cardiologist was in charge of assigning injured passengers to different hospitals based on the severity of their condition. Tu Bingxu, chief nursing officer of Tzu Chi Hospital and a lecturer on disaster nursing, was at the site as well, involved in the search and rescue of passengers.


Tzu Chi volunteers worked tirelessly to extend any form of support and comfort to the crash victims, their families, and the first responders. In three days, 1,505 volunteers helped transfer injured passengers to their assigned hospitals, accompanied bereaved families in identifying the casualties, and provided 2,129 meals to police, soldiers, and engineering crews tapped by government to clear the accident site of debris and attend to passengers’ various needs.


“Dharma masters at the Abode also went to provide chanting service at the funeral home. More importantly they provided spiritual support for the injured and those who lost their family,” added Master Cheng Yen. “In all, let us harbor sincere piety. I hope everyone, whether you live far or near, sincerely pray for this train accident and send out well-wishes to those affected.”


  • Dr. Wu Kunji of Tzu Chi Hospital comforts a frightened boy inside the Qingshui Tunnel. The boy’s mother was among the 200 injured in the eight-car train that derailed and crashed en route to Hualian and Taitung.

  • Surrounded by casualties from the train wreck, 77-year-old Tzu Chi Medical Director and cardiologist Dr. Lin Juin-Long assesses passengers’ injuries before assigning them to different hospitals.

  • Workers rally to rescue passengers trapped inside the train that crashed into a truck that had slid downhill from a construction site. The crash caused the train to derail from the tracks, killing 50 of the 498 passengers and injuring over 200.

  • Tzu Chi volunteers stand reverently in prayer as emergency responders transport the dead and injured in and out of the hospital.