Working journals show that 10 tonnes of propene, also known as propylene, leaked from piping systems used by LCY Chemical Corp over a two-hour period before the explosions in Greater Kaohsiung on Thursday night and Friday morning last week, the city government’s top environmental official said.
Environmental Protection Bureau Director-General Derek Chen (陳金德) said that the flow of gas in the pipes in Cianjhen (前鎮) and Lingya (苓雅) districts saw a sudden pressure decrease from 42 kilograms per square centimeter (kg/cm2) to 13 kg/cm2 between 8:50pm and 9:45pm on Thursday night.
The abnormality indicated a leak in a pipeline used by LCY Chemical to obtain propene from China General Terminal & Distribution Corp (CGTD), a provider of warehousing and transportation services for petrochemical raw materials, just hours before the explosions that claimed at least 28 lives.
CGTD shut down the pipeline at 9:30pm after noticing the discrepancy, only to reopen it at 10:10pm at LCY Chamical’s request, Chen said.
He accused LCY Chemical of “failing to report the abnormality” to the environmental authority.
The loss of pressure is suspected to be the source of the 10 tonnes of leaked gas that caused the series of explosions, Chen added.
Chen said if the abnormality had been reported to the relevant authorities promptly and the pipelines subsequently shut down, the tragedy could have been avoided.
After conducting an investigation at the scene of the incident, prosecutors found holes and patches along the pipes that they suspect might be the source of the leaks, Chen said.
The pipes belonging to LCY Chemical appear to be the only ones that continued supplying gas in the hours leading up to the explosions, he added.
The 28 confirmed deaths from the incident include four firefighters. As of yesterday afternoon, more than 300 people were reported injured, according to data from the Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center.
A total of 83,819 people from 32,968 households were affected in some way by the explosions, the center said.
About 280 people are living in shelters set up by the city government, it added.
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