Toddler killed, 14 injured in gas blast near Taipei

TAIPEI - A toddler was killed and at least 14 people were injured in a gas explosion near Taipei on Friday, officials said, two weeks after powerful gas blasts claimed 30 lives in southern Taiwan.

Firefighters rushed to put out a fire after the explosion in an apartment in a 17-storey building in the Xindian district of New Taipei City earlier Friday, shattering the glass in several nearby stores, television footage showed.

A one-year-old boy who suffered serious burns died after emergency treatment failed to revive him while 13 others were injured in the blast and a firefighter was injured when he fell at the scene, a spokesman for the New Taipei City fire department said.

The boy's grandmother and two-and-a-half-year-old sister suffered serious burns, while others had minor injures mostly from inhaling smoke, officials said.

An initial probe found that the blast originated in the master bedroom of the family's third-floor apartment, they said.

"It was like a big earthquake at the time of the explosion when doors were shaking," the Apple Daily Newspaper website quoted an eyewitness as saying.

New Taipei City deputy mayor Hou You-yi told reporters that the fire was started by an unidentified gas leak and that some residents had complained about a possible leak late Thursday.

"This could have been avoided since we reported (the leak) yesterday but it wasn't being dealt with," an emotional woman complained to Hou in footage aired by local television.

The accident came after gas explosions on July 31 killed 30 and injured more than 300 people in Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second-largest city.

Those blasts sparked massive fires that tore through main roads, leaving trenches running down the middle of some streets and throwing vehicles onto the roofs of buildings several stories high.

The Kaohsiung city government has blamed LCY Chemical Corp. for the explosions, saying around 10 tonnes of propene may have leaked from pipelines operated by the company in the hours before the first explosion.

President Ma Ying-jeou has vowed a full investigation into the cause of the accident and a review of the city's gas supply network.