Authorities fear another explosion may happen as dozens of Taiwanese citizens were killed this morning when a series of explosions went off near an underground pipeline in the city of Kaohsiung.
"In terms of what we can prevent, we're afraid another explosion could happen, as there is that possibility," said Hsu Lee-hao, a Ministry of Economic Affairs section chief staffing the disaster response center.
25 people are reported dead and 267 injured when the blasts went off Thursday night to Friday morning. According to the Washington Post, four firefighters were among the victims after arriving at the scene to investigate gas leaks. At least six fire trucks were flung into the rubble. The blasts sent flames shooting into the sky and hurled concrete and cars through the air, leaving deep trenches down the middle of several roads.
Currently, three people remain missing and many of the injured are still receiving emergency treatment. The disaster was Taiwan's second in as many weeks following the crash of a TransAsia Airways prop jet on the island of Penghu on July 23 that killed 48 people and injured 10.
"Last night around midnight, the house started shaking and I thought it was a huge earthquake, but when I opened the door, I saw white smoke all over and smelled gas," said Chen Qing-tao, 38, who lives 10 buildings away from the main explosion site.
Experts believe the explosions were believed caused by leaking propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use. The exploded gas line belongs to government-owned CPC Corp., which told The Associated Press there were no signs of problems before the explosions.
Local broadcasters showed images of residents searching for victims overnight in shattered storefronts and rescuers placing injured people on stretchers, while passersby helped other victims on a sidewalk. Numerous fires sent smoke pouring into the night sky above the Chian-Chen district, where factories operate near residential buildings.
One witness said he tried to help before paramedics arrived.
"I was on my scooter just across the street, suddenly there was the explosion, a white car was blown toward me, and I saw the driver trapped in the car," said Wong Zhen-yao, 49, owner of a car repair shop in the disaster area.
"There was still fire nearby. I tried to pull the guy out but couldn't," he continued. "Only after the smoke was gone did I realize there was such a big hole in the middle of the road."
Chen Chu, mayor of the southwestern port city of 2.8 million people, warned people to stay away from the area and said the city had opened nine emergency shelters. Authorities are reportedly " making every effort" to prevent future explosions.
Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah announced that all flags would fly at half-staff for three days from Aug. 5 in honor of the victims of both the Penghu air crash and Kaohsiung explosion.