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No cause to indict Kaohsiung mayor in gas explosions: prosecutors

2014/12/18 15:27

Taipei, Dec. 18 (CNA) Prosecutors said Thursday that they will not bring an indictment against Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu as they have found no evidence of deliberate negligence on her part in a series of gas explosions in July, which left 32 dead and 321 injured in the city.

The Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office made the statement during its indictment of 12 people, including LCY Chemical Corp. Chairman Lee Bowei, over the disaster.

The explosions, which erupted just before midnight on July 31, were found to have been caused by a leak in a section of an underground propylene pipeline owned by LCY.

Some critics have blamed the city government, saying it failed to identify the source of the leak and fix it in time and instead allowed an escape of highly flammable gas for hours.

Prosecutors said, however, that Chen had contacted the deputy mayor and head of the city's Mass Rapid Transit Bureau immediately after she was informed of the leak on the night of the incident.

After the explosions, Chen issued a directive for the chiefs of all the relevant agencies to remain at the disaster response center and she sought emergency assistance from the mayors of the neighboring Tainan City and Pingtung County, according to the indictment.

Chen herself showed up at the disaster response center at 12:21 a.m. Aug. 1, prosecutors said.

The prosecutors' decision, however, has been criticized by some residents in the affected areas, including a ward chief.

Chen Chun-kui, chief of Jhudong ward in the city's Cianjhen District, said she had called police and the city government's 1999 hotline many times that night to report that white smoke of unknown origin was seen in the area and had requested that the relevant agencies shut down all the underground pipelines.

The response she got was that there was no danger, she said, accusing the city government of mishandling the situation and thus causing huge casualties.

The 32 people killed in the blasts included her husband Chen Chin-fa, who she said would not have ventured out had the authorities not told them the risk of an incident was "down to 10 percent."

(By Chen Ja-fo, Wang Shwu-fen and Y.F. Low)ENDITEM/pc