TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP)
A series of underground gas explosions killed 25 people and injured 267 others late Thursday night in Taiwan’s second-largest city, authorities said.
The National Fire Agency said five firefighters were among the dead. Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that firefighters had been at the scene investigating reports of a gas leak when the explosions occurred.
Taiwan’s Premier Jiang Yi-huah said at least five blasts shook the streets of Kaohsiung, a southwestern port city of 2.8 million.
Video from Taiwanese broadcaster ETTV showed a row of large fires burning in the middle of a street in the southwestern city, with smoke rising into the night sky. A motorcycle and other debris were scattered across the middle of the roadway.
Power was cut off in the area, making it difficult for firefighters to search for others who might be buried in rubble.
The source of the leak had not yet been located. But Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in Chian-Chen district, which has both factories and residential buildings.
“Our priority is to save people now. We ask citizens living along the pipelines to evacuate,” Chen told TVBS television.
Mobile phone video captured the sound of an explosion as flames leapt at least 30 feet (9 meters) into the air.
The force of the initial blast also felled trees lining the street. TVBS showed cars flipped over and shattered windows.
CNA said the local fire department received reports from residents of gas leakage at around 8:46 p.m. and that explosions started around midnight.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)