A Greater Kaohsiung prosecutor confirmed yesterday that a pipeline suspected of being the source of the gas leaks that caused a series of deadly explosions last week in the southern municipality was found to be damaged after a second check of the site, although they did not name the company responsible for maintaining the pipe.
Accompanied by a metallurgist, Greater Kaohsiung District Prosecutor Hsieh Chao-ching (謝肇晶) entered a culvert at the intersection of Kaisyuan and Ersheng roads in the city’s Cianjhen District (前鎮) to inspect and take photographs of the broken pipeline.
Hsieh said he and experts from the Greater Kaohsiung-based Metal Industries Research and Development Center had determined during a second inspection that one of three adjacent underground pipelines was broken and suspected that it had been the source of the tonnes of propene that leaked, triggering the blasts late on Thursday evening and early Friday morning last week.
However, Hsieh did not say which company owns the pipe, adding that a ruling on the actual owner would not be made until further tests had been carried out and after a meeting with the three companies in charge of the three pipes.
Two of the pipelines are used by state-run oil company CPC Corp, Taiwan (CPC, 台灣中油) to transport the flammable gas to China Petrochemical Development Corp (中石化) and to petrochemical firm LCY Chemical Corp (李長榮化學) respectively, while a third carries propene from China General Terminal and Distribution Corp (CGTD, 華運倉儲) to LCY Chemical.
Environmental protection authorities have pointed the finger at the pipe used by CGTD and LCY Chemical as being responsible for the gas leaks, saying that it was the only one of the three that had been used to transport gas in the hours leading up to the explosions.
The prosecutor also said further checks are needed to decide if damage to the pipe was the cause of the blasts and to determine the reason for the damage.
Hsieh said it remained unclear if it was the blasts that caused the damage, or if the damage resulted from corrosion or loose patches. Initial investigations found a loose patch on the pipe used by CGTD and LCY Chemical.
The series of explosions occurred along 4km of the municipality’s Cianjhen and Lingya (苓雅) districts, killing at least 28 people and injuring more than 300.
Meanwhile, reconstruction efforts are forecast to cost NT$1.91 billion (US$63.6 million), the Greater Kaohsiung Government said yesterday.
Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) is looking for financial support from the Cabinet to allow the municipality to recover quickly, the government said.
The area wrecked by the explosions covers 72,300m2 and stretches for 4km, with severe damage to roads, sidewalks, streetlights and drainage, sewage and household plumbing systems, it said.
The government said it would ensure that all dangerous gases are removed from the underground pipelines before the reconstruction work begins.
Separately yesterday, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) promised that the Cabinet would draw on a disaster reserve fund to meet Greater Kaohsiung’s financial needs and would work closely with the local government to promote reconstruction efforts, so that those affected can get back to their normal lives within three months.