Public anger at authorities who failed to stop deadly gas explosions in Taiwan

Officials were aware of leaks for hours before blasts killed 28 people

Public anger is mounting at authorities in Taiwan who have still not found the cause of five deadly gas blasts that killed 28 people and injured hundreds more on Thursday.

Investigators in Kaohsiung are investigating LCY Chemical Corp, a Taiwanese petrochemical firm with pipelines running under the city.

A series of explosions tore through the streets starting at around midnight on Thursday, flinging cars into the air and blasting passers-by and shoppers at a nearby market with rubble.

Several residents had reported a gas leak to authorities in the industrial port city of 2.8 million people hours before the disaster and their failure to avert it has prompted widespread condemnation.

Residents said they were given conflicting advice before the explosions, which left a trail of destruction over one square mile.

One resident told television channel TVBS that five minutes before the explosions, authorities told them: "Everything is under control. You can go home and sleep." 

The blasts also damaged rows of shops and low-rise apartments.

The city's environmental officials blamed LCY Chemical Corp for failing to notify authorities of problems with a pipeline in the area, despite being aware of irregularities in the supply.

Chen Chin-der, director of the Environmental Protection Bureau in Kaohsiung, said: "If we were informed earlier by LCY, we could have evacuated everyone."
The pipeline was leaking nearly four tons of propene every hour as pressure dropped at around 8.45pm on Thursday.

As reports of leaks flooded in, firefighters and environmental officials tried to work out the nature of the gas and where it was coming from but their failure allowed it to accumulate and spread over several hours.

"The leak was at a different location from the explosions, because propene was leaking and spreading through the sewer system everywhere," Mr Chen said.

"When the density of propene is very high, anything can trigger an explosion, anything as small as a cigarette, or starting the engine of a motor scooter." 

Locals survey the damage from massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan Locals survey the damage from massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan Authorities had summoned representatives of a companies including LCY Chemical to check their pipelines but all said their operations were normal.

Propene, also known as propylene, is mainly used for making plastic that is widely used in a wide variety of packaging, caps and films.

The highly flammable gas is colourless and has only a mild, slightly unpleasant smell.

Thinking at first that it was natural gas, firefighters poured water at the site in the hope of dissolving it, which had no effect. 

Experts were only able to identify the gas as propene at around 11.55pm but by then it was too late and a few minutes later, the blasts started ripping the streets apart. 

The supplier said it had initially shut off the propene pump when it noticed irregularities several hours before the blasts, but had resumed delivery on LCY's request.  

Tens of thousands of people lost electricity and water supplies in the disaster zone but the Government promised amenities would be restored within five days.

LCY Chemical Corp said it would co-operate with the investigation.

"Our priority is to figure out the truth and responsibility," spokeswoman Pan Lee-lin said.

Industrial pipelines are believed to precede many of the residential districts they run beneath in Kaohsiung.

The city contains much of Taiwan's heavy industry, especially petrochemicals.

Additional reporting by AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world