Friday, 1 August 2014

At least 25 dead following series of pipeline explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Twenty five people are known to have died and 271 have been injured following a series of explosions in the Cianjhen District of Kaohsiung, with local authorities warning that the death toll is likely to rise sharply as rescue and clean-up operations continue. The incident began at about 8.45 pm on Thursday 31 July 2014, when people in the area began reporting a smell of gas to the National Fire Agency, with the first of the explosions occurring at about midnight, and at least four fire fighters and a policeman who were investigating the cause of the smell being among the dead. 

Residents of Cianjhen carrying an injured neighbour away from the scene of the explosions. AFP.

The explosions covered an area of 2-3 km³, with major fires, streets spilt open along the path of pipelines and overturned cars throughout the area. Rescue workers are currently sifting through the remains of houses looking for survivors. 23 600 homes are known to have lost gas supplies following the incident, with 7536 being left without electricity and 8000 without water. 1212 reesidents have been evacuated from the immediate area.

An explosion in the Cianjhen District early in the morning of 1 August 2014. AFP.

The precise cause of the explosions has not yet been determined; there are a number of petrochemical and plants in the area, several of which obtain supplies through underground pipes. Investigators are reportedly concentrating on a pipeline carrying liquid propylene between the China General Terminal & Distribution Corporation and LCY Chemical Corporation, which apparently suffered a drop in pressure prior to the explosions. It is thought that this pipeline could have leaked into the sewage system, carrying highly flammable propylene throughout the district before the explosions began, and that the initial blasts may have severed other chemical pipelines, providing fuel for further blasts.

The aftermath of the Ciajhen explosions on the morning of Friday 1 August 2014. AP.

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