Taiwan court sentences 12 people to prison over deadly gas blasts

Three government officials among those convicted for 2014 explosions that killed 32 and injured more than 300

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 4:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 May, 2018, 7:23pm

Three government officials were among 12 people jailed on Friday over Taiwan’s worst ever gas explosions, which killed 32 and injured more than 300 four years ago.

The disaster in the southern city of Kaohsiung saw blasts rip through underground pipelines, sparking massive fires and leaving trenches running down the middle of some streets, with vehicles thrown onto the roofs of buildings.

Three former Kaohsiung city government officials were each sentenced to four years and 10 months for causing death and injury by professional negligence, the city’s District Court said in a statement.

The offence is punishable by a maximum five-year prison term.

The court found that the trio had failed to properly inspect and monitor the pipeline system.

They “have shown no remorse as they denied responsibility and blamed each other”, the statement said.

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The head of Kaohsiung-based LCY Chemical and five employees each received a four-year jail term for failing to regularly maintain the underground pipes transporting propene which caused them to rust and damage, leading to the blasts.

The company failed to conduct proper procedures when testing for leaks and continued to transport the gas to its factory, which produces chemical materials and plastics.

Three employees of a company contracted by LCY Chemical to deliver propene were each sentenced to four years and six months in prison for their failure to notice irregularities and stop transporting the gas on the day of the explosions.

The court said the defendants “had inflicted huge emotional and physical damage on the victims”, but the sentencing took into consideration that their companies had settled with the victims’ families and compensated them.

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The head of a victims’ association who lost his father in the disaster said it was time to move on.

“The most important thing is for our lives to get back on track. Heavier punishment wouldn’t really help the wounded or the families of the deceased,” Chen Kuan-rong said outside the court.

The government could bring a more “constructive” punishment to benefit Kaohsiung, such as levying higher taxes on LCY Chemical rather than jailing individuals, he said.