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Kaohsiung mayor subpoenaed for fatal gas blasts

2014/09/23 00:21:08

Taipei, Sept. 22 (CNA) The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office has issued a formal subpoena to summon Kaohisung Mayor Chen Chu for interrogation on Sept. 26 for alleged dereliction of duty that resulted in the loss of lives in a series of gas explosions in the city on July 31, the city government said in a statement issued Monday.

Chen, Deputy Mayor Liu Shih-fang, and the heads of the Kaohsiung City Environmental Protection Bureau and Labor Affairs Bureau have received subpoenas and will answer the summons as scheduled, according to the statement.

The subpoenas were issued after the ruling Kuomintang Kaoshiung city council caucus, led by city council speaker Hsu Kun-yuan, and city councilors Chen Li-na and Huang Po-lin, filed a complaint against the mayor from the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the three other city officials in late August, accusing them of negligence in the wake of the series of gas explosions in the city that killed 30 people and injured more than 300.

Following the blasts, the Kaohsiung city government had blamed the disaster on LCY Chemical Corp, a local petrochemical company that owned the propylene pipe that is believed to have leaked the chemical, causing the deadly blasts.

However, the city councilors alleged that the pipeline suffered corrosion because of faulty public works construction of a culvert or underground rainwater ditch.

The city government knew that the pipeline carrying propylene should have been packed into the ground soil to reduce the risk of explosion.

Instead, when the city built the new culvert, it ended up intersecting with the pipes at one point, exposing them to moist air from the culvert's rainwater and leading to corrosion over time, prosecutors alleged.

Because the culvert was constructed that way, leaking flammable propylene spread quickly like wildfire along the waterway, causing the series of explosions in one neighborhood in Kaohsiung.

Investigators have found that the propylene leak, which was blamed for the fatal blasts, originated from a location where the defective pipeline passed through the culvert.

The culvert was constructed before Chen Chu became mayor, but councilors said the city government "failed to tackle the problem."

Also Monday, Yang hailed prosecutors' move, saying that the city government cannot shirk responsibility for the culvert, which was not constructed according to the official blueprint and ended up in the wrong location.

In addition, mayoral candidate Yang Chiu-hsing has accused Chen Chu of dereliction of duty and failing to go to the scene of the disaster for three full hours after the explosions occurred. Yang had accused Chen Chu of getting a massage at home at the time; Chen has denied this, but admitted the masseuse was in her home.

LCY is meanwhile suspected of offenses against public safety for continuing to pump the flammable gas into the pipelines despite indications there was a leak.

The city government said that Chen Chu has provided evidence related to the gas blasts to prosecutors and expressed her respect for the judiciary and her hope that the case will be handled fairly.

(By Wang Shwu-fen and Evelyn Kao)