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Infrastructure damage in Kaohsiung blasts set at NT$1.91B
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-04 03:03 PM
The Kaohsiung City Government has set its initial estimates for the cost to repair roads, culverts and other infrastructure damaged in last Thursday’s gas explosions at NT$ 1.91 billion (about US$60 million). Engineers from the Kaohsiung Municipal Government’s Construction and Planning Agency went to the scene on Sunday to survey the damage in one of the worst petrochemical gas explosions in the city’s history.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu has said she will request funds from the central government for reconstruction in the area bounded by San-duo, Kai-xuan and Yi-xin Roads that was rocked by a series of blasts late Thursday night.

The municipal government says pavement, sidewalks, street lighting, storm drains and other facilities were seriously damaged in an area covering more than 72,300 square meters and stretching more than 4 kilometers along roads in the vicinity. City officials stress that the basic infrastructure needs to be restored as soon as possible to allow access to businesses and residences in the area. When that has been done private owners can begin rebuilding and get back to normal life.

A government spokesman noted that there may still be pockets of propylene gas which need to be removed in order to ensure that construction of roadss and other facilities can be safely carried out. In addition, the government is studying the feasibility of using metal pilings or other materials to line culverts in the area to guarantee the stability of the land and make it easier to handle maintenance and management of underground lines including utility lines in the future.

The government has said it will employ the latest technical know-how and standards in planning and construction in order to minimize inconvenience to area residents while guaranteeing the highest quality.

Some residents in the area have expressed misgivings at the idea of having pipelines for the transmission of petroleum products buried once more under nearby streets. Many are asking what alternatives exist to using underground pipelines, suggesting that manufacturers might use tanker trucks to haul petrochemical products from one plant to another.

Representatives of the petrochemical industry have been quick to respond negatively, insisting that "regardless of whether you’re talking about cost or other considerations, using tanker trucks to transport such materials on public streets is even more dangerous."

Last week’s blast has pointed up the hazards involved in transmitting petrochemical products through pipelines in densely populated areas. Opposition to continued use of buried pipelines has surfaced in the days since the wave of explosions in Kaohsiung.

Huang Man-ching, Director of the Service Center in Da-fa Industrial Park, acknowledges that residents are opposed to having petrochemical-laden pipes running throughout the city, but in the short run it would be extremely difficult to develop a feasible alternative to the pipelines. Huang asks, "Don’t you think it would be even more dangerous to have big trucks with loads of petrochemicals and other raw materials plying the roads at all hours of the day?"

One executive at a company in the Ren-ta Industrial District explains that acquiring and maintaining a fleet to transport such materials would cost tens of thousands of dollars a day and would not necessarily be any safer than using pipelines to transmit the products. He said tankers are more suited to transporting limited amounts of materials, but switching to trucks instead of pipelines to transport large amounts of petrochemicals would be tantamount to sending out time bombs on the streets.

Huang Man-ching explains that most manufacturers in the petrochemical industry are confident in the safety of using petrochemical pipelines as long as external factors are kept under control. At the same time, they are devoting a lot of time and expense to researching other possible approaches. Possibilities under consideration include running lines under elevated roadways or under highways in less densely-populated sections of urban areas.

Huang said the industry is always on the lookout for better and safer ways to operate.

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