12,000 return to homes after gas blast mayhem in Taiwan
The 12,000 people who fled in fear of more gas pipeline explosions in Taiwan's second-largest city returned to their homes yesterday after authorities said there was no more risk of blasts like the series that ripped apart streets, killing 26 people and injuring 267.
With clean-up work under way in the more than two square kilometre area, investigators were turning to the task of determining the cause of the blasts, the industrial city's worst such disaster in 16 years.
Most of the four ruptured street sections in the densely populated district of Kaohsiung had been declared safe from further explosions by afternoon, a city spokesman said.
A blaze in a 10-meter long section that burned throughout the night had also been put out.
Five explosions ripped through four streets starting around midnight on Thursday, catapulting cars into the air and blasting cement rubble at passers-by, many of whom were out late because of a nearby night market.
That came about three hours after a gas leak had been reported on Kaixuan Road, but emergency services had been unable to locate the source.
Four firefighters were among the victims and two were missing, while at least six fire trucks were flung into the rubble.
The blasts sent flames shooting into the sky and hurled concrete through the air, leaving broad, meter-deep trenches down the middle of roads.
Many of the injured were still receiving medical treatment. The disaster was Taiwan's second in as many weeks following the crash of a TransAsia Airways prop jet on July 23 that killed 48 people and injured 10.
The explosions were believed caused by leaking propene, a petrochemical material which is not intended for public use.