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12 indicted for Kaohsiung gas explosions

2014/12/18 13:06:33

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Twelve people, including the head of a major petrochemical company, were indicted Thursday in connection with the July 31 gas explosions in Kaohsiung that left 32 dead.

The individuals include LCY Chemical Corp. Chairman Lee Bowei and five employees of his company along with three employees of China General Terminal and Distribution Corp. (CGTD), a transporter of petrochemical materials.

Also indicted were three former employees of Kaohsiung's municipal Public Works Bureau.

Although incumbent officials including Mayor Chen Chu have been investigated for their handling of the apparent gas leak just before the blasts, none were indicted.

The explosions were found to have been caused by a leak in a section of LCY-owned underground propylene pipeline, according to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office.

The pipe crosses an underground drainage culvert at one point on the way to the company's Dashe plant. The indictment said prosecutors found the culvert, built in the 1990s, was illegally constructed around the pipeline, exposing the latter to air and moisture that caused erosion.

Although workers at CGTD and LCY had discovered what they suspected was a leak on the night of the accident, LCY nevertheless requested CGTD continue transporting propylene to the plant for processing, the indictment said.

That decision caused a large amount of the highly flammable gas to leak out and eventually spark into multiple explosions in the city's Cianjhen and Lingya districts that also injured 321. Sections of several streets were ripped apart and life is just beginning to get back to normal months after the blasts.

After it obtained the pipeline in 2007 with the acquisition of Taiwan Polypropylene Co., LCY made no efforts to maintain or inspect it, which allowed the erosion to worsen, the indictment alleged.

(By Chen Ja-fo and Y.F. Low)

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