Rescuers search for survivors in Kaohsiung after series of deadly gas explosions

Government orders investigation into source of leaks that caused 25 deaths and injured 259 more

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 6:40pm

Taiwan’s rescuers today used life sign detectors to scour several bustling streets that had been blasted into long trenches after a series of gas explosions overnight killed 25 people and injured 259 others in the port city of Kaohsiung.

The explosions, believed to be caused by a leak of propylene, a petrochemical material, first struck a street in the busy Cianzhen district in the island’s second largest city, ripping off ditch covers and bursting into flame, according to video footage and officials.

Watch: Multiple gas explosions in Taiwan's Kaohsiung streets

At least five blasts followed in three other nearby districts sharing the same sewage system as streets tore open burying dozens of parked vehicles and parts of buildings alongside the roads collapsed, they said.

Four firefighters who were sent to the blast sites to put out the fires were killed when explosions suddenly occurred, the Kaohsiung City Government said.

More than 1,400 soldiers, joined local rescuers to scour the streets blasted open, the Defence Ministry said.

Local TV reports quoted witnesses as saying some cars and people in Cianzhen were hurled as high as three storeys in the air when the explosions occurred.

“I was startled when the explosions took place and soon I saw some cars and people were thrown into three-storey high and then fell down,” a witness was quoted by TVBS cable news network as saying.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party ordered a an emergency operation to rescue people buried by the debris and bring the fire under control.

She criticised the government of President Ma Ying-jeou for allowing so many gas pipelines placed underground in the busy district.

Watch: Gas blasts kill 24, injure 271 in Taiwan

“In just 20 years, Kaohsiung was hit by two serious gas explosions,” she said, adding those pipelines “shouldn’t be there in the first place”.

Premier Jiang Yi-huah ordered a thorough investigation in the leak’s cause and which of the five petrochemical or gas plants with pipelines in the blast areas was to responsible for the leak.

In meeting a group of indigenous visitors, President Ma yesterday led the group to observe a one-minute silence for those killed in the blasts.

Both Taipei and New Taipei city governments yesterday also cancelled two separated firework displays and ordered a check of their underground pipeline systems