Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Minister under fire for explosion

HEALTH AND SAFETY Some DPP legislators asked for the interior minister to quit after a fireworks factory in Miaoli County blew up, killing five people and injuring 14

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fire inspectors study the site of the Chufeng Fireworks Factory in Tunghsiao, Miaoli County, where an explosion left five people dead and 14 injured.

PHOTO: PAN WEN-JEN, TAIPEI TIMES

Legislators demanded that the interior minister resign to take responsibility for an explosion and fire at a Miaoli County fireworks factory on Sunday night that killed five people.

The huge fire at the Chufeng Fireworks Factory in Tonghsiao was finally extinguished yesterday morning.

Four burnt bodies were found in a worker's dormitory, three of which were a mother and her two children. A Vietnamese worker was pronounced dead yesterday morning after being rushed to the hospital. Fourteen people were injured.

The fire destroyed all nearby buildings and explosions could be heard up to 20km away. Firefighters worked throughout the night and said they brought the fire under control by around 4am.

While many fireworks factories in Taiwan are illegal, this one had a license, raising concerns that the government was not applying regulations stringently enough.

"I have asked the Ministry of the Interior, the National Fire Administration and the National Police Administration to work together to examine the fire hazards caused by fireworks factories," said Premier Yu Shyi-kun.

Miaoli County prosecutors Huang Yan-hui (黃彥輝) and Liu Chen-mu (劉正穆), along with coroner Wang Song-hung (王頌鴻), began their investigations at the disaster scene yesterday morning.

They halted their search for evidence until the afternoon after deciding that two warehouses at the factory were still hot and liable to catch fire again.

Huang said it appeared the fire might have started at the back of the factory. He said fire experts would have to study the site further to determine what caused the fire.

However, Huang Kwan-hai (黃廣海), the brother of the fireworks factory director, told the police last night that the fire might have started at a nearby police station that had confiscated 3,000 boxes of illegal fireworks from the factory nearly two months ago.

Yu said that Minister of the Interior Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) had reported immediately to him once he had received news of the explosion.

"Our sympathies go out to those who have been injured and the family members of those who have died," Yu said.

"I also informed President Chen [Shui-bian (陳水扁)] of the news and the president has ordered the ministry to take care of the aftermath and conduct internal administrative reviews," Yu said.

On the legislative floor yesterday, DPP legislators Kuo Jung-chung (郭榮宗) and Hsieh Ming-yuan (謝明源) urged the National Fire Administration Director-General Huang Chi-ming (黃季敏) and Yu Cheng-hsien to step down for failing to carry out their responsibilities.

"The ministry will take full responsibility for the consequences," Yu Cheng-hsien said in response.

According to the interior minister, there were 20 legal fireworks factories in Taiwan, four of which had closed.

"There could be about 40 to 50 underground factories still in existence," he said. "As the Chinese New Year, presidential election and legislative elections roll around, there will be a greater demand for fireworks and precautionary measures need to be in place."

Premier Yu said he had asked the National Fire Administration to work with local fire stations around the country to conduct inspections.

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