Gas explosions kill 20, injure 270 in Taiwan

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Kaohsiung Taiwan Gas Explosion
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Gas explosions kill 20, injure 270 in Taiwan
A crushed vehicle sits in rubble on a destroyed street after multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Tossed vehicles line an destroyed street as flames continue to burn from multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Flames from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Rescue workers inspect the body of a victim following a blast in the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan early on August 1, 2014. The explosion, that is believed to have been caused by a gas leak, killed at least four people and wounded 186 others. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER == TAIWAN OUT == (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A victim in a gas explosion from an underground gas leak is carried from the rubble in a main street in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Flames from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
Residents carry a wounded person following a blast in the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan early on August 1, 2014. The explosion, that is believed to have been caused by a gas leak, killed at least four people and wounded 186 others. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER == TAIWAN OUT == (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A policeman stands next to the covered body of a victim following a large blast in the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan early on August 1, 2014. The explosion, that is believed to have been caused by a gas leak, killed at least four people and wounded 186 others. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER == TAIWAN OUT == (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
People take pictures of a crater caused by a blast in the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan early on August 1, 2014. The explosion, that is believed to have been caused by a gas leak, killed at least four people and wounded 186 others. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER == TAIWAN OUT == (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Map locates Kaohsiung, Taiwan.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
Map locates Kaohsiung, Taiwan.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
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By GLADYS TSAI

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - A series of underground gas explosions killed 20 people and injured 270 others late Thursday in Taiwan's second-largest city, authorities said.

The National Fire Agency said five firefighters were among the dead. Taiwan's Central News Agency reported that firefighters had been at the scene investigating reports of a gas leak when the explosions occurred.

Taiwan's Premier Jiang Yi-huah said at least five blasts shook the streets of Kaohsiung, a southwestern port city of 2.8 million.

Video from Taiwanese broadcaster ETTV showed a row of large fires burning in the middle of a street in the southwestern city, with smoke rising into the night sky.

Power was cut off in the area, making it difficult for firefighters to search for others who might be buried in rubble.

The source of the leak had not yet been located. But Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in Chian-Chen district, which has both factories and residential buildings.

"Our priority is to save people now. We ask citizens living along the pipelines to evacuate," Chen told TVBS television.

CNA said the local fire department received reports from residents of gas leakage at around 8:46 p.m. and that explosions started around midnight.

Closed-circuit television showed the explosion rippling through the floor of a motorcycle parking area, hurling concrete and other debris through the air.

Mobile phone video captured the sound of an explosion as flames leapt at least 30 feet (9 meters) into the air.

Video from TVBS showed locals searching for victims in shattered shop fronts. Rescue workers pulled several injured people from the rubble in the center of the road, placing them on stretchers as passers-by helped other victims on the sidewalk.

The explosion left a large trench running down the center of one road, edged with piles of concrete slabs torn apart by the force of the blast.

A damaged motorcycle lay in the crater, and TVBS showed cars flipped over. The force of the initial blast also felled trees lining the street.


Raw video from the scene:

Raw: Deadly Taiwan Gas Leak Explosion

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