Gas explosion in Kaohsiung: 24 dead
by Xin Yage
There are also 270 wounded. Streets ripped apart, with huge craters, cars and people thrown into the air by the explosion. The dead include four firefighters. An eyewitness account.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - A series of gas explosions in a district of Kaohsiung, the largest city in the south of the island, has caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries, ripping up roads and destroying cars. As of noon today, according to official sources, there are 24 victims and more than 270 wounded. The dead include four firefighters who were killed while battling ensuing fires.

Elton is an eyewitness. He lives in the Cianjhen neighborhood (前 镇区) in Kaohsiung for two years and teaches English at a secondary school in the area.

"It's complete madness!" he exclaims on the phone. "It all began just before midnight. I got up and looked out the window and saw what seemed to be a scene from some apocalyptic movie." "The neighborhood - he adds - is usually very quiet, so it was even more shocking, we did not understand what was happening. I saw flames, literally, exploding cars, people thrown to the ground with the road exploding under their feet. Incredible, really incredible ... ".

According to preliminary investigations, the underground gas pipe broke under in an area of ​​2-3 square kilometers. The gas leak caught fire and then erupted destroying various roads of Kaohsiung and killing and wounding hundreds of people.

Firefighters and ambulances arrived from all over the area and from neighboring cities to extinguish the flames and rescue the victims.

To give an idea of the force of the explosion, at least two people were hurled onto the roof of a five-story building. They are safe although injured and were transported to the hospital. In some cases, the flames engulfed buildings 20 stories high; in other's craters were formed by bomb-like explosions.

The city's mayor, Ms. Chen Chu, said on television that "the rescue operations are still at maximum level and it is hoped that the number of dead will not rise".