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Devastating Taiwan gas explosion kills at least 25 and injures hundreds more – World – News – London Evening Standard

August 1, 2014

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An investigation was today underway into a string of underground gas blasts that ripped through Taiwan’s second-largest city, killing at least 25 people and injuring 267 more.

Five explosions in Kaohsiung hurled concrete and cars through the air and blasted long trenches in the streets.

The series of explosions struck a densely populated area where petrochemical companies operate pipelines alongside the sewer system the south-western port with 2.8 million people.

Firefighters called to the neighbourhood last night to investigate a gas leak were among the victims when the blasts went off hours later, overturning at least six fire trucks in the rubble of pavement and dirt.

Four firefighters were among the 25 dead as well as some of 267 people injured, the National Fire Agency said. The death toll could rise, because many of the seriously injured are still being treated, officials said.

Three people were reported missing in the disaster, Taiwan’s second in as many weeks following a plane crash on July 23 in which 48 people were killed.

“Last night around midnight, the house started shaking and I thought it was a huge earthquake, but when I opened the door, I saw white smoke all over and smelled gas,” said Chen Qing-tao, 38, who lives 10 buildings away from the main explosion site.

The fires were believed to have been caused by a leak of propane, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the cause and source of the leak were not immediately clear, officials said.

One of the fires, along a 33ft (10m) stretch of gas pipe, was still burning at midday, the National Fire Agency said on its website.

The government’s disaster response centre said it was trying to prevent any knock-on gas explosions in the same place or nearby.

“In terms of what we can prevent, we’re afraid another explosion could happen, as there is that possibility,” said Hsu Lee-hao, an economics affairs ministry section chief staffing the disaster response centre. “We’re afraid it could be in the same place or elsewhere.”

 

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in Chian-Chen district, which has both factories and residential buildings. She warned people to stay away today. “We have an intersection that’s still burning,” Ms Chen said at an emergency government meeting broadcast on television. She called the explosions Kaohsiung’s worst gas-related accident in 10 years. “The city of Kaohsiung has opened nine relief shelters. We hope people can first evacuate to a safe place.

Devastating Taiwan gas explosion kills at least 25 and injures hundreds more – World – News – London Evening Standard.

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