At least 24 people were killed and 271 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan’s second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said on Friday.
The series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday struck a district where several petrochemical companies operate pipelines alongside the sewer system in Kaohsiung, a southwestern port with 2.8 million people.
The fires were believed to be caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.
Video from the TVBS broadcaster showed residents searching for victims in shattered storefronts and rescuers pulling injured people from the rubble of a road and placing them on stretchers while passersby helped other victims on a sidewalk. Broadcaster ETTV showed rows of large fires sending smoke into the night sky.
Four firefighters were among the 24 dead and 271 people were injured, the National Fire Agency said. The firefighters had been at the scene investigating reports of a gas leak when the explosions occurred, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.