In Taiwan the new month begins with yet another tragedy. The country was still trying to recover from the shock of the TransAsia plane crash that killed 48 people when yesterday at around midnight a series of explosions rocked the southern city of Kaohsiung, devastating houses and streets, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At first only 7 people were presumed dead. But as the night hours passed the list was revised upwards over and over again.
According to the latest figures (published by Apple Daily at around 1 pm), a total of 25 people have been killed, four of whom were firefighters, while 267 have been injured.
Yesterday evening a gas leakage occurred in Qianzhen (前鎮), a District of Kaohsiung City. Firefighters were on the spot at 9 pm to take safety precautions. People in the neighbourhood were alarmed by the strong and persistent gas smell. A woman interviewed by Apple Daily said that she had already noticed a strong gas odour as early as in the evening of July 30 while she was going to an international business school on Sanduo Road.
At 12 am of July 31 a series of explosions rocked the entire district, ripping streets open, damaging buildings, overturning cars and scooters. Flames blazed up from the earth and a fire spread through the district, which lasted for several hours.
This morning at 6 am the Ministry of Economic Affairs Zhang Jiazhu (張家祝) held a press conference. He stated that the possible cause of the disaster might not be gas, as initially supposed, but a leakage of propene. However, he said the authorities did not know yet why the leakage occurred or which company’s pipelines were affected.
While the authorities are struggling to locate the source of the leakage, psychiatrist and blogger Pan Jianzhi (潘建志, aka Billy Pan) published on his Facebook page a comparison of a map from the Geographic Information System (GIS) and a map of the streets destroyed by the blasts. The maps seem to show that the pipelines of Hsin.Kao Gas Co. Ltd run through the streets where the explosions occurred. The map was not made by Pan himself, but by researcher Zhang Antian, who emphasised that the points of the explosion must be located before final conclusions can be reached. However, he hopes that he map will help the authorities in their search for the cause of the blasts.
A spokesperson of CPC Corporation, a Taiwanese state-owned oil and gas company that also operates in Kaohsiung, said that so far its own system is working normally and no damage has been reported by the work units who are inspecting the pipelines.
Jiang Yihua (江宜樺), the Premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan), visited Kaohsiung this afternoon and attended a meeting of the Central Emergency Operation Centre. He said that at the moment the real causes and circumstances of the disaster remain unclear. He further stated that the national flag will be flying at half-mast for three days next week (August 5, 6 and 7) to commemorate not only the victims of the Kaohsiung tragedy, but also those who died in the TransAsia air crash that happened just a few days ago.