TAIPEI, Taiwan - A series of gas explosions between late Thursday night and early yesterday morning in Kaohsiung resulted in 26 deaths and at least 280 people injured.
The blasts were of such a magnitude that entire sections of streets were ripped apart; vehicles were turned upside down and some were even flung onto the tops of buildings. The areas affected by the blasts were measured at 2 to 3 square kilometers in Cianjhen District. Roughly 1,500 troops were dispatched to aid in relief efforts.
A total of eight emergency shelters were set up for 1,152 local residents, and as of 5 p.m., electricity, gas and water were still cut off for thousands of households.
Premier Jiang Yi-huah was notified shortly after the blasts occurred, arriving at the Central Emergency Operation Center at approximately 2 a.m. The premier contacted Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu to learn more about the incident and to offer the central government's assistance. Accompanied by the premier and other top officials, President Ma Ying-jeou attended a briefing at the emergency centre and conducted a videoconference with the mayor of Kaohsiung.
The premier said that he will issue an order to have national flags across the nation flown at half mast for three days starting from Aug. 5 to mourn the victims of the gas explosions in Kaohsiung and the recent Flight GE222 crash in Penghu.
Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch, who was also at the emergency centre, said that the accident is believed to have been caused ruptured pipes carrying propene. Afterward, the authorities were still trying to determine the exact cause of the leak and subsequent explosions.
Later in the day, the premier arrived in Kaohsiung to oversee relief efforts.
A large amount of white smoke was reportedly seen Thursday night at the light rail construction site in Cianjhen District. The fire department dispatched personnel to the site, and the area was cordoned off. Roughly a couple hours later, a series of fiery explosions ripped apart the streets as terrified residents ran to safety.
A firefighter told reporters that first he heard the explosions, then the ground bulged and collapsed to a depth equaling one story. The firefighter added that he when climbed to his feet, everyone in sight was injured.
By daybreak, the areas affected by the blasts were described as resembling a "war zone."
LCY Chemical Corp.
Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau Director Chen Chin-der identified the gas that caused the accident as propene, adding that it was leaked from pipelines supplying LCY Chemical Corp. with gas from the China General Terminal & Distribution Corporation.
Chen said that the evidence will be handed over to prosecutors for further investigation.
LCY Chemical Corp., however, said that its pipes were 10 meters away from where the blasts occurred, and that its pipes are 4 inches wide as opposed to the 8-inch pipes that reportedly exploded.
The company said that it will cooperate fully with Kaohsiung in the ongoing investigation.