Kaohsiung mayor apologises for misinformation about pipes

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) apologised yesterday for "horizontal miscommunication" after a local newspaper revealed that the Kaohsiung government did in fact know about the underground pipelines near the city's light rail system.

Chen was seen bowing low in apology after the local China Times publicized a government document pointing out that while inspecting the locations for the city's light rail system project, Kaohsiung's Mass Rapid Transit Bureau (MRTB) had discovered the LCY Chemical Corp. (LCY, 李長榮化學工業) pipelines that ultimately caused the multiple explosions in downtown Kaoshiung; however, the Kaohsiung government had previously stated that there was no information regarding the LCY pipelines.

"After gaining further understanding, (we) discovered that our team made serious mistakes when it came to horizontal communication ... but (we) did not lie," said the mayor in an interview after her apology.

MRTB Director Chen Tsun-yung (陳存永) stated afterwards that the bureau did not know about the pipelines that did not belong to the MRT system. "The pipelines we had to inspect for the MRT system were ones that are less than one meter under the ground; I did not know about the LCY pipelines that were 1.5 meters below," said the director.

Kaohsiung's Public Works Bureau (PWB) Director Yang Ming-chou (楊明州) noted that the PWB did not have information and pipeline graphs provided by LCY; the company or unit in charge of each pipeline should provide the said information on their own.

"The PWB charges each unit in control of a pipeline road usage fees, and LCY has indeed paid its share. But this does not mean the government knows there were LCY pipelines there," said PWB Department of Planning head Su Lung-hua (蘇隆華).

Four Leading Kaohsiung Officials Resign

A week after the multiple explosions that ripped apart several blocks in Kaohsiung's city centre, four of the southern city's leading political officials tendered their resignations to Mayor Chen.

Deputy Mayor Wu Hong-mo (吳宏謀), Water Resources Bureau head Lee Hsien-yi (李賢義), PWB head Yang Ming-chou (楊明州) and MRTB head Chen Tsun-yung (陳存永) all decided to step down yesterday afternoon in order to take responsibility for the explosions, but the mayor has not yet approved the resignations.

LCY Head Attacked at Memorial Service

A public memorial service was held yesterday for the 30 people who died in the explosions, as it had been seven days since their deaths. Chen attended the service to pay her respects to the dead, also promising that she would discuss the issue of the pipeline reconstruction with the units in charge and give the citizens a "satisfactory answer."

"We will replace mourning with humbleness and activeness, hoping that Kaohsiung will not be beaten," said Chen. "Kaohsiung has been identified as an industrial city; the government has been trying to change that image in recent years and leave behind the city's fate of remaining a city of heavy industries, yet we have not worked hard enough."

LCY Chairman Bowei Lee (李謀偉) also attended the public service, leading a group of his staff to pay their respects to the dead. A scuffle ensued shortly after Lee arrived, with the family of the deceased rushing at him and some even throwing bottled water and cups at his head. "We have arrived late," Lee was heard saying at the service.