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Military helping with aftermath of deadly Kaohsiung blasts

2014/08/01 21:06:19

Taipei, Aug. 1 (CNA) More than 1,600 servicemen and several life detectors have been dispatched to help in the search through the rubble for survivors of a series of deadly gas explosions in the southern city of Kaohsiung as the military steps up its rescue efforts, the Ministry of National Defense said Friday.

A total of 1,641 servicemen and 26 life detectors have been deployed in rescue operations at the scenes of the blasts that began late Thursday, the ministry said in an update statement on its rescue efforts.

At the same time, 131 transport vehicles, 29 ambulances, three fire trucks, three chemical-detection vehicles, 15 engineering machines and other equipment are also being used in the rescue mission, it said.

In addition to the southern city's Xinbin, Jintong and Heping military bases, where are available for accommodation, the ministry said that Kaohsiung Hero House will provide 10 free rooms from Friday to Monday to accommodate residents who have been forced from their homes.

The ministry said it is working closely with the Kaohsiung Emergency Operations Center to help with the search and rescue work and is offering medical assistance in areas rendered dangerous by the blasts.

The explosions have caused 26 deaths, including firefighters, and have left more than 260 people injured.

Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch said the blasts could have been caused by ruptured pipes carrying propene, a petrochemical raw material, adding that the reasons and sources of the leaks will be investigated by the relevant agencies.

Residents reported seeing white foam erupting from roadside drainage systems and smelling a strong odor of gas at around 9 p.m. on Kaisyuan and Erhseng roads in the city's Cianjhen District, which is the location of a light rail construction site.

Police and firefighters rushed to the scene, cordoned off the area and misted the area with water in a bid to control the situation. However, a series of explosions and ensuing fires started at 11:53 p.m. that continued until later into the night, causing residents to flee their homes in panic.

(By Elaine Hou and Wang Shu-fen)