Taiwan investigators raid offices of Kaohsiung gas blast companies

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 5:04am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 8:31am


The authorities in Taiwan raided the offices of two firms linked to massive gas explosions that killed 30 people as the island flew flags at half mast yesterday to mourn the blast victims and 48 killed in an earlier plane crash.

The number killed in the explosions rose to 30 after the family of two listed as missing agreed to end a gruelling and fruitless search by dozens of workers at the blast site in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city.

Prosecutors overnight searched the offices of LCY Chemical Corporation, a company allegedly responsible for the deadly explosions last Thursday that also injured more than 300 people.

They also raided China General Terminal Distribution Corporation, a chemical distributor contracted by LCY Chemical to deliver propylene gas from a pier to a chemical plant 20km away through an LCY Chemical-owned pipeline system beneath the city.

Prosecutors took away documents from the two firms that recorded the shipment of propylene which prosecutor Huang Yuan-kuan said should be useful in helping clarify the case.

The Kaohsiung city government says evidence suggests 10 tonnes of propylene might have leaked in the hours before the first explosion and blames LCY Chemical for the deadly blasts which tore up city streets.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has vowed a full investigation into the cause of the incident and a review of the pipe network. Kaohsiung lies next to a huge petrochemical complex housing dozens of plants and many pipelines run under the densely packed city.

Reconstruction efforts following the blasts were estimated to cost about NT$1.9 billion (HK$490 million), according to the city government.

The explosions were the second disaster to strike Taiwan in just more than a week. A TransAsia Airways plane crashed with the loss of 48 people on July 23.

Government spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said the Taiwanese flag would be flown at half mast from public buildings for three days of mourning for "our compatriots who died unfortunately in the two accidents".