As of 10:33 am August 4, 2014, the number of people confirmed dead following the series of overnight gas blasts in Kaohsiung stands at 28.

According to the Central Disaster Response Center, the number of injured stands at 302, with 2 still missing.

Four firefighters are among the dead, and officials say at least 21 emergency service personnel and 24 city government employees were injured.

Many of the casualties involved firefighters who had arrived at the scene to investigate reports of a gas leak before the explosions occurred.

The injured are being treated at hospitals across Kaohsiung.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs, which supervises the state-run petrochemical corporations in Kaohsiung, says one blast related fire has still not been extinguished.

The explosions, the largest of which occurred at the junction of Yingxiang and Kaixuan roads, were reportedly caused by a leak in a pipeline. The source of the leak has not yet been located.

Central Disaster Response Center director Chang Chia-juch says the leaking gas has now been identified as propene – the second-most important starting product in the petrochemical industry and the raw material for a wide variety of products – meaning the resulting fires could not be extinguished by water.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu says several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in the district.

State-refiner China Petroleum says initial inspections of its pipelines have uncovered no problems but has shut them down pending an inspection.

President Ma Ying-jeou went to the Central Disaster Response Center, where he was  briefed on the situation by Chu and Premier Jiang Yi-huah. Premier Jiang later went to Kaohsiung to get a first-hand look at the damage and the response to the disaster.

The explosions that jolted Kaohsiung overnight were so powerful that emergency crews found a car and several injured people on the top of three- and four-story buildings.

Eyewitnesses reported cars and motorcycles being blown into the air, with their drivers and riders suffering serious injuries.

Several streets were ripped open during the explosions, and scores of residential buildings have suffered major damage.

More than seven and a half thousand households in the affected areas are currently without power.

About 12,000 people displaced are now sheltered at 10 emergency centers at local schools, according to Chen.

Firefighters from neighboring Tainan City and Pingtung County, and more than 1,000 soldiers are helping with rescue operations.

200 soldiers from the army’s chemical division are currently testing the density of the gas at the site. The army has also sent 1,400 soldiers to help with disaster relief, and another 600 will be sent there tonight.

Heavy construction equipment has been brought into the areas to begin removing sections of road, vehicles and other debris from the streets.

Schools and officers are closed today in Qianzhen and Lingya Districts, and residents of areas affected by the blasts are advised to leave their homes so as not to impede search and rescue operations.

Traffic restrictions are in place on Sanduo, Guanghua, Yixin and Kaixuan roads. Authorities are also advising the public to avoid the Qianzhen district due to ongoing search and rescue operations.

The National Freeway Bureau has also closed the northbound exit from Sun Yat-sen Freeway to Sanduo Road. The Kaohsiung MRT and bus system, however, remain unaffected.

Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-pin has offered NT$200,000 in relief funds to families of victims killed in the blasts.

The funds, which the city government says should be transferred to Kaohsiung in the next couple of days, are from the city’s special account of private donations for major disasters.

The city has also sent officials, including the director of Taipei City Hospital, the Deputy Health Bureau chief and the Deputy Fire Department chief to Kaohsiung to assist with rescue efforts.

Taichung Mayor Jason Hu and the DPP’s Taichung mayoral candidate, Lin Chia-lung, have both expressed their condolences to the victims of the Kaohsiung gas blasts.

Hu has offered to send emergency service personnel to the city to assist with rescue efforts.


More Related News:

Taiwan gas blasts in Kaohsiung kill at least 22 BBC Aug 1, 2014

At least 22 dead, 270 hurt in Taiwan gas explosions CNN Aug 1, 2014


Image via BBC