Taiwan gas blast death toll at 26
                 English.news.cn | 2014-08-01 20:19:46 | Editor: Yang Yi

A work meeting concerning the gas blast is held in Kaohsiung City, southeast China's Taiwan, Aug. 1, 2014. The underground gas explosions that hit Kaohsiung at about midnight on Thursday have left at least 26 people dead, two missing and another 250 injured, latest data from the island's authorities has showed. (Xinhua/He Junchang)

A work meeting concerning the gas blast is held in Kaohsiung City, southeast China's Taiwan, Aug. 1, 2014. The underground gas explosions that hit Kaohsiung at about midnight on Thursday have left at least 26 people dead, two missing and another 250 injured, latest data from the island's authorities has showed. (Xinhua/He Junchang)

TAIPEI, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- The underground gas explosions that hit Kaohsiung City in Taiwan at about midnight on Thursday have left at least 26 people dead, two missing and 269 injured, latest data from the island's authorities has showed.

The two missing following the city's worst gas blasts in more than a decade are a firefighter and an official of the local firefighting authority.

The injured were all rushed to local hospitals for treatment.

Most of them suffered burns and scalds, fractures or internal bleeding, according to a hospital affiliated to Kaohsiung Medical University.

Among the 40 receiving treatment in that hospital, 16 are in critical condition.

Local authorities have continued search and rescue efforts on Friday evening, but said no sign of life has been spotted so far.

Neighboring areas are still at risk because small explosions are still occurring occasionally at the scene of the original blasts.

The Kaohsiung government has resettled more than 900 residents, while electricity supplies to 12,000 households and gas supplies to about 23,000 have been cut.

The government also announced a suspension to all school classes and work on Saturday in the city's Cianjhen District and Lingya District.

Gas leaks were reported in Cianjhen at around 8:46 p.m. on Thursday, leading to multiple blasts that affected an area as large as three square km, overturning cars and ripping up roads.

Chang Chia-juch, senior official in charge of Taiwan's economic affairs, said the blasts were most likely caused by a propene leak.

The local environmental authority said the leaking gas has been brought under control and that inhaling a small amount of it will not do great harm to people as propene has limited toxicity.

"It is really like a calamity coming from Hell," said Siew Han-chun, vice chairman of the Kaohsiung City Farmers' Association, who lives very near the explosion site.

Siew recalled that he and his family were awoken by the first explosion, and they endured a sleepless night together watching TV reports of latest developments.

Taiwanese journalist Huang Chung-kuei, who lives near Sanduo Road, was the first to reach the spot with his camera to report on the accident. But finding the devastation was very serious, he decided to help the relief.

"People were taking turns to do CPR on strangers, but that was still too late. I saw three victims die right in front of me. Nothing could be done to save them," Huang said.

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, on Friday conveyed condolences to the victims, saying he was "deeply concerned" after learning of the heavy casualties.

The Chinese mainland's Taiwan affairs chief, Zhang Zhijun, the National Health and Family Planning Commission and the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits have also expressed concern and willingness to offer help.

The mainland-based Red Cross Society of China has also decided to send a donation of 500,000 U.S. dollars to the island's red cross organization.

This is not the first time Kaohsiung has experienced a fatal gas blast. In 1997, an explosion killed 14 locals and firefighters and injured 11 when a petro company was conducting a pipeline project.

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