31 July 2014
Last updated at 23:41
A series of gas explosions in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung has killed 20 people and injured about 270, officials say.
The exact cause of the gas leaks is not clear, but reports say the blasts were caused by ruptured pipelines.
Images from the scene show major fires, cars overturned and significant damage to roads and buildings.
Dozens of those injured by the blasts were taken to hospitals for treatment, Taiwan’s fire agency said.
“The local fire department received calls of gas leaks late Thursday and then there was a series of blasts around midnight affecting an area of two to three sq km [one sq mile],” the National Fire Agency added in a statement.
‘A huge cave’
“I saw lots of cars and motorcycles with engines all over on the road, and doctors checking if bodies were dead or alive, “eyewitness Chen Guan-yuan, who was at the scene shortly after the blast, told the BBC.
“Because the explosion range is so far so it’s really difficult to handle this situation immediately,” Mr Chen said, adding that the blasts “caused a long range hole, like a huge cave”.
The blasts ripped through the southern city of Kaohsiung
The blasts left craters in the road
Five firefighters are said to be among the dead.
People in the nearby area have been evacuated to schools, local officials say.
Despite firefighting efforts, fires were still out of control in two streets at 05:00 local time (21:00 GMT), five hours after the blasts, local media reported.
Firefighters are still trying to see if people are trapped under the rubble of the explosion, the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei reports.
Taiwan has a late night culture, so there would have been people out and about on the streets at midnight when the blast happened, our correspondent adds.
The multiple explosions were sparked by gas leaks in the sewage system of Kaohsiung’s Cianjhen District, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said, according to Taiwanese news agency CNA.
Hundreds of soldiers, and firefighters from neighbouring Tainan City and Pingtung County, had been deployed to assist rescue efforts, Mr Jiang added.
Scores of people have been wounded
A wide area has been affected by the blasts
People have been ordered to stay home from school and work in Kaohsiung’s Cianjhen and Lingya districts on Friday, local media reported.
Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu wrote on her Facebook page (in Chinese): “Rescue efforts are still underway.”
She urged everyone to “follow the instructions of rescue teams at the scene, and avoid standing around and watching”.
“The local government has already requested [gas suppliers] CPC and Hsin Kao Gas cut off the gas supply,” she added, urging residents to stay calm.
The local government has set up an emergency response centre.
Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that before the explosion, smoke with a “gas-like smell” came out of drains.
Major fires could be seen at the scene of the blasts
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