Death toll grows to 9 in southern Taiwan factory blaze, 1 still missing
Pingtung, Sept. 24 (CNA) Two more bodies were found Sunday morning, more than 24 hours following a factory fire and subsequent explosions at an industrial park in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County, raising the death toll from the incident to nine, according to local authorities.
As of 8 a.m. Sunday, the blaze and subsequent explosions at a golf ball manufacturer Launch Technologies Co.'s factory at Pingtung Technology Industrial Park killed at least nine people, including four firefighters, and injured 98, while one person was still missing, according to the local government.
Search teams are still looking for the one missing person, said Hsu Mei-hsueh (許美雪), the head of the county's Bureau of Fire and Emergency Services, on Sunday.
The fire started at the factory Friday evening and was extinguished at 9:56 p.m. Saturday after more than 28 hours of firefighting efforts, according to the bureau.
The four firefighters who died in the fire were all in their 30s. They were Lai Chun-ju (賴俊儒), 33; Chen Po-han (陳柏翰), 32; Chung Chi-yuan (鍾吉垣), 38, and Shih Pao-hsiang (施寶翔), 37, according to the bureau.
Hsu said the bureau received a call about the fire at 5:31 p.m. on Friday, and firefighters arrived at the location 12 minutes later. At 6:09 p.m., an explosion occurred after several firefighters had entered the premises, causing part of the structure to collapse and trapping several firefighters and workers beneath the rubble.
A few minutes later, at 6:28 p.m., a second explosion occurred, Hsu said.
Initially, Hsu had told the media that explosions occurred soon after firefighters were thought to have doused the flames with water.
Water can react in dangerous ways with chemicals in certain industrial fires, even causing explosions, either through chemical reactions or by turning into steam, according to experts.
However, she modified her previous remark on Saturday, saying that firefighters did not use water for fear it could react with combustible gases at the site, but instead used dry agents to extinguish the fire.
Hsu further said on Sunday that she spoke too fast on Friday when the scene was quite chaotic, so a slip of the tongue occurred.
She emphasized that when firefighters arrive at a disaster site, they would usually confirm the information and only perform rescue operations if there are no problems in the assessment.
The head of the firefighting team and team members have been trained, and there is also a chemical substance query form on the fire truck allowing them to check chemical characteristics and properties, she added.
As for whether the factory provided a safety data sheet at the time of the incident, Hsu said that it was incomplete, adding that the exact cause of the incident still needs further investigation.
Regarding reports that Launch Technologies Co. has been granted Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) from the Ministry of Finance, the ministry responded Saturday that the company was granted the AEO status in 2014 but with the validity of its AEO certificate being three years, the company lost the status since 2017 because it did not file its renewal of certification.
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