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Intense flooding exacerbates conditions after Kaohsiung disaster
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-08-11 05:51 PM
Heavy rainfall Monday forced Kaohsiung to shut down schools and offices as flooding overwhelmed its sewage system severely damaged by gas explosions that killed 30 people and injured 300. The July 31 explosions of underground industrial pipelines crisscrossing the city sparked massive fires, excavated trenches running down streets, and tossed vehicles onto the roofs of buildings.

The Kaohsiung City Water Resources Bureau stated that the culverts and drains instrumental in diverting accumulating rainwater were destroyed by the explosions leading to an inability to drain rainwater effectively. Currently, 17 water pumps have been installed at critical junctions to siphon water into more accessible drainage systems. "We have deployed dozens of water pumps in the two districts hoping they would help drain water,'' a city government official said.

According to the Central Weather Bureau, accumulated rainfall in Kaohsiung's Ziguan District reached over 200 millimeters in the last 24 hours and close to 400 millimeters in the last 48 hours. Qiaotou, Renwu and Dashe areas reported precipitation above 150 millimeters.

Residents piled sandbags in the two districts with damaged drainage systems but many were already cut off by rising waters. Citizens have been reporting that water has flowed back into the blast trenches. The bureau has responded to this problem, stating that the length of drainage pipelines has been extended to relieve the situation. One angry resident stated that his home had been flooded several times since last week. "This has never happened before,'' he said.

Originally planned construction of steel pipes to accelerate the removal of residual propene underground has been halted. Kaohsiung's environmental protection agency stated that water levels must to be brought down approximately one meter before work can continue. Officials say it will take four days to clear the pipes. Reconstruction work has ground to a standstill due to the flooding and the Central Weather Bureau warned of more torrential rain across Kaohsiung, Pingtung, and Tainan Tuesday and Wednesday which raises fears of further flooding.

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu requested that the city's Water Resources Bureau resolve this situation appropriately. "The flooding over the past few days was due to serious damage caused to the sewage system by the gas explosions,'' Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said.

Approximately 360,000 people live in the area of the gas explosions, accounting for approximately 13% percent of the population Kaohsiung.

The central government and local authorities disagree as to who should shoulder the responsibility for failing to monitor pipeline safety and foot the bill for massive reconstruction costs. LCY Chemical Corp. is allegedly the culprit behind the explosions. Approximately 10 tons of propene may have leaked from pipelines operated by the firm. Prosecutors have raided the offices of LCY Chemical twice as part of their investigation into the cause of the gas explosions.

This accident has already led to the resignation of Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch. Kaohsiung's deputy mayor and three other municipal officials have also resigned but have been requested to remain available until the end of disaster relief operations. Huge petrochemical complexes with dozens of plants adjoin Kaohsiung and pipelines feeding raw materials to these facilities run under the city.

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