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Taiwan gas explosions: 'It's like a bomb, let's hurry'

The New Paper | Monday, Aug 4, 2014

Damage: Residents carrying a wounded person on a makeshift wooden stretcher following blasts in the city of Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

The blasts were so powerful that they overturned cars and ripped up roads. Terrified residents fled an inferno.

News footage showed buildings hundreds of metres from each other engulfed in flames, with bright orange fireballs leaping up from grates in city streets, The New York Times reported.

A series of deadly explosions caused by a gas leak overnight killed at least 25 people and injured 267 in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, according to government officials.

The gas leaked from underground pipelines.

A video from a car dashboard that a resident posted online showed an explosion fill the ground floor of a building. The driver turned to avoid the fire, only to encounter flames gushing from the middle of the street a block away.

Security camera footage showed the blast roaring down city streets, followed by billowing clouds of smoke and flying debris.

Roads collapsed

Some roads completely collapsed, leaving emergency vehicles crushed and passengers pinned under piles of concrete.

"At the moment of the explosion, I was thrown into the air," police officer Chen You-ping, who suffered injuries to his head and face, told Apple Daily newspaper. "When I fell back down, the ground had collapsed by the height of a person."

Witnesses reported seeing bodies strewn across the streets of Taiwan's second-largest city, which lies adjacent to a huge petrochemical complex housing dozens of petrochemical plants.

Witness Johnson Liu told AFP: "I saw fire soaring up to possibly 20-storeys high after a blast, and fire engines and cars being blown away while around 10 bodies lay on the street."

A second dashboard camera uploaded online showed a car frantically making a U-turn after the initial explosion only to hurtle towards another inferno coming up from beneath the road.

"I'm scared to death," one of the occupants was recorded saying. "It's like a bomb, let's hurry."

Residents described how the neighbourhood smelled strongly of gas before the disaster.

One resident surnamed Peng said: "There was a heavy odour of gas... then I heard explosions and saw fire spurting from a store."

The explosions were the second major disaster to hit Taiwan in just over a week. On July 23, a turbo prop passenger plane crashed in bad weather on the outlying island of Penghu, killing 48 people.


This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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