UK & World News
Mystery Gas Blasts Tear Up Streets In Taiwan
A series of underground gas blasts in Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung has killed 25 people and injured 267 others.
The explosions sparked a huge fire that tore through the city's Chian-Chen district and were powerful enough to upturn cars and split open paved roads.
One of the blasts left a large trench running down the centre of a road, edged with piles of concrete slabs.
Residents said the blasts felt like a powerful earthquake.
Media reports suggest the number of dead is likely to rise sharply.
President Ma Ying-jeou promised measures to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
"The explosions were like thunder and the road in front of my shop ripped open. It felt like an earthquake," Taiwan's Central News Agency quoted an eyewitness as saying.
"I saw fire soaring up to possibly 20 storeys high after a blast, and fire engines and cars being blown away while around 10 bodies lay on the street," another witness said.
The National Fire Agency said four firefighters, who were at the scene investigating gas leaks at the time of the explosions, were among those killed.
It said the local fire department received calls of gas leaks late on Thursday and then there was a series of blasts around midnight affecting "an area of two to three square kilometres".
They were believed to have been caused by a leak of propene, a petrochemical material not intended for public use, but the source of the gas was not immediately clear, officials said.
Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in the area.
Xinhua news agency described smoke with a "gas-like smell" seen coming out of drains in the streets before the explosions.
Officials urged people to stay out of the district and people were using schools to take shelter.
Power was also cut off in some areas, making it difficult for rescuers to search for people who might be buried in rubble.
The explosions came just a week after a TransAsia Airways plane crashed in Taiwan during bad weather, killing 48 people.