Taiwan gas blast death toll rises to 28, chemical company suspected

KAOHSIUNG, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) -- At least 28 people have been confirmed dead in Taiwan's underground gas explosions, according to latest data from the island's emergency operation authority on Saturday.

The death toll has climbed after two new bodies were found Saturday.

The blasts that hit Kaohsiung City at about midnight Thursday, also left another 287 injured and two firefighters missing.

As the missing firefighters have yet to be found, the casualties are very likely to further increase.

Local firefighting authority has pledged non-stop search and rescue efforts.

Initial investigation of the cause of the blast found that propene gas leaks at the scene were from the pipes linking a local chemical company, LCY Chemical Corp., with its gas supplier, the Taiwan-based China General Terminal and Distribution Corporation (CGTD).

Chen Chin-der, chief of the city's environmental protection authority, said that the LCY company, after detecting abnormalities with the pipes from the CGTD, failed to ask the latter to cut the gas supplies as soon as possible.

Nor did it inform local authorities about the problems, Chen said, adding that the company's failure has led to "a large quantity of propene leaks" and affected relevant authorities' proper judgement of the accident.

As of Saturday evening, electricity supply to 5,700 households, gas supply to about 20,000 and water supply to 7,000 are yet to be restored.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou also visited the affected areas on Saturday, urging utmost resolve and courage by relevant authorities to prevent similar accidents.

Gas leaks were reported in the city's Cianjhen District at 8:46 p.m. on Thursday, leading to multiple blasts at about midnight that affected a three square km area, overturning cars and ripping up roads.