Kaohsiung mayor denies dereliction of duty

A mangled car is seen on the damaged rooftop of a three-story building near the site of a gas explosion in Kaohsiung on August 2, 2014.

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) said yesterday that she is willing to provide evidence of her whereabouts when the Kaohsiung gas explosions occurred, defying the Kuomintang (KMT) claim that she neglected her duties on the night of the accident.

KMT lawmaker Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) and several others have raised questions as to Chen's whereabouts when the explosions occurred. They said that Chen should be held responsible for the 30 deaths resulting from the tragedy and requested Chen's resignation.

The KMT Legislative caucus on Friday called on Chen to step down and take responsibility for the loss of 30 lives in the deadly gas explosions.

KMT legislator and party whip Alex Fai at a press conference Friday made charges that the mayor had been lying until Thursday morning about the existence of the underground pipeline suspected of being the source of a propene leak that caused the blasts on July 31.

In response, Chen only said that she thanks KMT legislators for their concern. KMT lawmakers are unable to provide evidence of her absence from the government that night, Chen said, adding that the accusation is clearly an act of defamation. She said she is willing to provide witnesses or video images showing her whereabouts on the night of the incident.

The priority right now, however, is rescue work, Chen said. She is scheduled to lead a team of Kaohsiung officials to visit Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) next week.

The central government has agreed to provide assistance to Kaohsiung's rescue and reconstruction efforts. The Kaohsiung government will allocate NT$300 million and the central government will foot the remainder of the bill, according to local news sources.

There is also confusion regarding who had authority over some petrochemical pipelines buried underground, and this is an issue that Kaohsiung wants to deliberate with the central government, Chen said.