Multiple explosions caused by a gas leak killed at least 24 people and injured 259 in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, the government’s Emergency Operations Center said Friday. Underground explosions in Taiwan’s second-largest city triggered fires that ripped off manhole covers on roads, local TV footage showed. Deep craters formed in many roads, and the damage overturned and destroyed cars. The situation is largely contained now, the center said.
Economic Minister Chang Chia-juch said an initial investigation indicated the leak likely occurred in an underground pipeline that transports propene, a flammable petrochemical used for polyesters. Mr. Chang didn’t identify the company that operates the pipeline and said the investigation is ongoing. Mr. Chang also said the fire department had found the source of the gas leak and cut it.
The government said it first received reports of gas leaks at 8:46 p.m. local time Thursday, and multiple blasts started to occur around midnight, affecting an area if two to three square kilometers, or less than two square miles. Residents told local media that they had smelled gas and seen smoke emerging from drains shortly before the explosion. One video clip posted on YouTube shows what looks like a narrow residential street suddenly exploding down its length.
Other large boulevards were also cracked and cratered, and some houses collapsed, TV footage showed. Many streets are still covered in rubble and impassible by ambulances. Some people said tearfully on local TV that their families or friends are likely buried in collapsed houses, though reports are unconfirmed. Four police and firefighters are among the dead, Taiwan’s Emergency Operations Center said. The emergency center had earlier reported 270 injured.
The blast was the second deadly disaster in Taiwan in two weeks. Last Wednesday, a TransAsia flight crashed in an outlying Taiwanese island and killed at least 48 aboard.