Many dead in Taiwan city gas blasts

Taiwan's News.Net Friday 1st August, 2014

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A series of underground gas explosions in southern Taiwan has killed at least 28 people, injured around three hundred, and displaced thousands in the city of Kaohsiung, one of the hubs of petrochemical production, officials said Friday.


The disaster is believed to have been caused by a gas leak from an underground pipeline Thursday night, leaving a trail of death and destruction in Taiwan's second-largest city.

The explosions triggered a series of major fires with flames shooting 15 storeys into the air, manhole covers ripped off on roads, vehicles upturned and streets split in two with big craters opening up at many places.

Economic Minister Chang Chia-juch said that officials were still unable to determine what caused the explosions. But an initial investigation indicated the leak could have occurred in an underground pipeline that transports propene, a highly flammable, nearly odorless petrochemical used for polyesters.

The disaster prompted a major rescue operation that saw hundreds of soldiers being deployed around the blast sites.

An unknown number of people are said to be buried under the rubble with the authorities fearing that the death toll may go up.

Eyewitnesses said that they saw flames racing through the district and smoke billowing high into the air.

The blaze at many points shot up from sewers and gutters, they said. Water from burst mains gushed through the streets as victims overcome by smoke were resuscitated in the street.

The China Post reported that about 12,000 people were displaced and are being sheltered at 10 emergency centers at local schools.

The city government, which set up the shelters, said the refugees' homes were damaged in the explosions as some of them were afraid to remain to their houses after the deadly explosions.

The people who have been evacuated will not be allowed to return to their homes until the safety of the area can be ensured, the police said.

The accident has resulted in power supply to some 12,000 households being disrupted. Utility crews were working to restore the electricity supply.

The government said that the situation has been brought under control as the fire department had cut the pipeline's gas supply shortly after the explosions.

The chance of further explosions is "extremely slim at the moment because all gas supply has been turned off", said Kaohsiung city spokesman Ting Yun-kung.

"Everyone is concerned about the cause of the incident and the cabinet has set up a task force to investigate and hope to find the cause in the shortest possible time," President Ma Ying-jeousaid said Saturday. "Even though this incident happened in Kaohsiung, every Taiwanese person's heart is hurt. I hope heaven blesses Kaohsiung and blesses Taiwan."

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