Owners never inspected Taiwan gas pipeline that exploded because they 'didn't have the keys'
Construction company and owner deny responsibility after 28 killed
Ada Lee in Kaohsiung and Angela Meng
Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah has announced an overhaul of pipelines across the island after a series of deadly explosions in the southern city of Kaohsiung claimed 28 lives and injured more than 300.
He said a comprehensive review of the city's underground pipelines would take place, including their design and management.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs will compile all relevant information regarding underground pipelines to help assess which ones should be moved.
Reconstruction efforts following the blast would cost about NT$1.9 billion (HK$492 million), the city government said yesterday.
Watch: Rescue continues after deadly gas explosions in Taiwan's Kaohsiung
Meanwhile LCY Chemical, owner of the pipeline that caused the accident on Friday, said it never inspected the pipeline because it "did not have the keys".
A spokeswoman for LCY said the pipeline was designed and constructed by state-owned CPC Corporation. Construction was completed in 1994.
LCY paid for the design and construction, but CPC was responsible for the maintenance, the spokeswoman said. "We don't even have the keys to the tunnel for maintenance."
CPC, however, said it was LCY's responsibility to maintain the pipeline after it was handed over to the company.
In a statement, CPC said it did not have a maintenance contract with LCY. "The pipeline is LCY's property. It has the right to use it, and it has the responsibility to maintain it," it said.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu estimated that reconstruction of the damaged roads would cost NT$1.2 billion.
She urged the Taipei government to tell Kaohsiung residents exactly where underground pipelines were located.
"Only in this way can we protect the residents," she said. "People here have the right to know."
Shen Jong-chin, the vice-minister of economic affairs , said the petrochemical industry should submit information on the distribution of pipelines near the disaster area to the ministry within a week, adding that the details should be clear and prcise.
The LCY spokeswoman said the company had bought insurance, but the amount was small. She would not reveal the actual sum. "But affected parties shouldn't worry," she said. "If the investigation finds it was indeed our fault, we would compensate them anyhow."
Yesterday, rescue workers continued to search for survivors and bodies using their bare hands, shovels and other small tools, to avoid the possibility of triggering further explosions.