Fri, Dec 19, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Twelve charged over Kaohsiung blasts

INDICTMENT:The chairman of LCY Chemical was charged with endangering public safety. Kaohsiung’s mayor and several bureau heads were cleared of any wrongdoing

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Photographs taken during inspections following the gas explosions in Greater Kaohsiung on July 31 and Aug. 1 are posted on a wall in the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday.

Photo: Chang Chung-yi, Taipei Times

Public prosecutors yesterday charged 12 people, including the head of LCY Chemical Corp (李長榮化工), over a series of gas pipeline explosions in Greater Kaohsiung on July 31 and Aug. 1 that left 32 dead and more than 300 people injured.

The explosions were mainly caused by the leaks in a section of an LCY-owned underground pipeline carrying propene, the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office said in a statement.

LCY Chemical chairman Lee Bowei (李謀偉) and five company employees, along with three employees of China General Terminal and Distribution Corp (華運倉儲), a transporter of petrochemical materials, were charged with offenses against public safety, professional negligence that caused death and other charges.

Three former employees of Greater Kaohsiung’s Public Works Bureau were also indicted.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Deputy Mayor Liu Shih-fang (劉世芳) and three other city government officials, who were also subjected to a judicial probe into their handling of the explosions, were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said they decided not to charge Chen, Liu and the heads of the city’s fire department, and environmental protection and labor bureaus, because there was no evidence of deliberate negligence.

The indictment said that LCY Chemical’s pipeline crosses an underground drainage culvert at one point on the way to the company’s plant in Dashe District (大社).

It said the culvert, built in the 1990s, was illegally constructed around the pipeline, where long-term exposure to air and moisture caused corrosion and deterioration of the pipeline.

Although workers at LCY Chemical and China General Terminal had discovered what they suspected was a leak on the night of July 31, the chemical firm still ordered the latter to continue pumping propene to supply the Dashe plant, the indictment read.

That decision caused highly flammable gas to leak, subsequently igniting massive explosions in the city’s Cianjhen (前鎮) and Lingya (苓雅) districts that led to fatalities and large-scale devastation.

No indictment was brought against officials of Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC, 台灣中油), which was responsible for the construction and laying down of underground pipelines.

According to the prosecutors’ statement, the gas leaks did not originate from CPC’s pipelines, and since the state-run company was not responsible for monitoring the pipelines’ conditions, no charges were brought against CPC president Lin Sheng-chung (林聖忠) and other company officials.

Chen said she respects the decision of the prosecutors.

“The judiciary has clarified that city government officials were not at fault. It gives redress to city employees in the fire department and environmental protection bureaus, who were hard at work in the front line,” the Kaohsiung mayor said.

“We hope the judicial system can continue to protect our citizens, and bring justice to those responsible for this disaster,” she added.

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