Firm apologizes over Kaohsiung blasts

Firm apologizes over Kaohsiung blasts

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- LCY Chemical Corp. Chairman Bowei Lee yesterday held a press conference in Kaohsiung and for the first time apologised to the public over the multiple explosions in downtown Kaohsiung last Thursday night.

As of yesterday evening, the explosions had killed 28 people and injured 302, and two firefighters remain missing, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center.

The propene pipelines of the private petrochemical firm LCY have been placed in question by the public and media as the possible cause of the explosions.

Lee said that he will not shirk his responsibilities, stressing that he has never hidden anything from the public and he wants to know the cause of the blasts more than anyone.

The chairman said that in response to prosecutors' demands, the firm on Aug. 2 had examined the culverts underneath the explosion sites, stressing that, however, LCY cannot comment on the results of the examination before the prosecutors reveal the conclusions of their investigation.

Lee, during his five-minute press conference, however, did not respond to reporters' questions as to why the firm did not immediately report that its pipelines were leaking to the Kaohsiung Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) before the blasts occurred.

As to why his company did not feel that abnormal pressure levels might indicate a leak, the chairman and CEO said such an assessment is the responsibility of the China General Terminal & Distribution Corp. (CGTD, 華運倉儲), which transports LCY's petrochemicals through the pipes.

LCY Denies Accusation

Apart from the press conference held in Kaohsiung, LCY at the same time convened another press conference at the Taiwan Stock Exchange building in Taipei yesterday afternoon.

The company said as authorities cannot at the moment confirm that the cause of the incident was a natural gas or propene leak, LCY cannot confirm that it was at fault.

The apology was an expression of regret over the pain suffered by the victims and their families, and the apology absolutely was not an admission that the firm had anything to do with the explosions, company representatives said.

LCY further said that given that the cause of the incident is yet to be determined, the public and media should not view LCY as the origin of the tragedy.

If the cause of the blasts was due to leaks from LCY's propene pipelines, then the company will "definitely" bear the responsibilities, the LCY said.

LCY Deputy-General Manager Chiu Yuan-yuan (邱媛媛) said the propene pipeline that has been assumed to be the cause of the blasts was actually designed and inspected by the state-owned gasoline supplier CPC Corp.

Chiu further said that the CGTD is responsible for the output operation of the pipeline and LCY is in charge of the input operation.

Chiu stressed that the company has been operating in accordance with standard operating procedures.

The company said it is worried that if it donates supplies to the victims now the company may be "questioned by the public about its position" and face heavier pressure.

LCY said, therefore, it will not take any actions at the moment, noting that, however, it will "definitely" make donations in the future.

The company has requested that its employees who live in Kaohsiung help the victims.

CPC spokesman Chang Jui-tsung responded to Chiu's remarks, saying that his company does not have a maintenance contract with LCY Chemical.

The pipelines and the right to use them belong to LCY, Chang said.


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