Saturday 20 December 2014

Death toll reaches 25 following Taiwan gas blast as 267 more injured

Published 01/08/2014 | 08:33

A series of explosions caused by a gas leak killed 25 people and injured 267 in Taiwan's second city on Friday, sending flames shooting 15 storeys into the air, setting ablaze entire blocks and reducing small shops to rubble.

Rescue authorities said police and soldiers had been drafted in to help firefighters after the midnight explosion and blaze gutted a district in the port city of Kaohsiung packed with shops and apartment buildings.

Four firefighters were among the dead. Media reports suggested the death toll was likely to rise sharply.

President Ma Ying-jeou pledged tough measures to prevent any recurrence of the incident.

"We will make further arrangements and inspections to avoid this kind of disaster from occurring again," Ma said in comments shown on television after speaking via a video link with Kaohsiung's mayor.

The blast sent flames racing through the district and smoke billowing high into the air. Flames shot up from sewers and gutters and water from burst mains gushed through the streets.

A rooftop view shows a destroyed street from an massive gas explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of powerful gas explosions ripped through a port city in southern Taiwan midnight Thursday, killing scores of people and injuring more than 200 others, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
A rooftop view shows a destroyed street from an massive gas explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Firemen put out fire on the part of a destroyed street as fire continue to burn following multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Rescue personnel survey the wreckage after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed scores of people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
An explosion caused by a gas leak in the southern Taiwanese city Kaohsiung has killed 15 people and injured another 243, Taiwanese media reported on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer (TAIWAN - Tags: DISASTER TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) TEMPLATE OUT
Several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
The explosion caused by a gas leak in Taiwan's second city sent flames shooting 15 storeys into the air, a government agency said. REUTERS/Toby Chang (TAIWAN - Tags: DISASTER)
A road is seen after an explosion in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan
Tossed vehicles line an destroyed street as flames continue to burn from multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Residents said the blast shook buildings as if there had been an earthquake, toppling small shops and overturning cars.

Rescuers formed a chain to pull dozens of injured from a vast crater in the street and picked their way through piles of rubble as they ferried the injured away on stretchers.

Those overcome by smoke were resuscitated in the street.

"We've already taken some seriously injured into the emergency room," a doctor told a local television station, without giving his name.

Two of these were in surgery with a fractured hip and internal bleeding in the head, respectively, he added, while four more were receiving emergency treatment.

The body of a motorcyclist lay covered by a sheet next to his battered vehicle and another body had been placed on a slab of concrete next to piles of debris.

Kaohsiung authorities set up an emergency centre to be staffed by servicemen coordinating the rescue operation.

By morning, firefighters had regained control of the district and were moving in protective white gear through streets covered in upturned asphalt and smashed vehicles.

The National Fire Agency said firefighters were investigating reports of gas leaks, as the cause of the explosions remains unclear.

Economic minister Chang Chia-juch told reporters initial assessments suggested the blast was caused by a leak of propylene, a material used in the production of plastics and fabrics.

Taiwan's two foremost petrochemical companies said their operations were unaffected by the blast.

An official from Formosa Petrochemical said the company's facilities were not located near the disaster site and its factories were functioning normally. State-owned CPC Corp. also said it was operating normally.

Reuters

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