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Taiwanese petrochemical company LCY has been blamed for a series of deadly explosions that killed 28 people on July 31 in Kaohsiung.

LCY failed to shut off a pipeline despite detecting a drop in pressure, officials said.

The company said it will cooperate with the investigation.

The search for two missing firemen is continuing, though there is little hope that they will be found alive.

Almost 300 people were injured in the explosions, which left a trail of devastation in the centre of the city.

Witnesses reported huge fireballs soaring into the air. Officials said there were at least five blasts.

A statement from Kaohsiung city authorities said that LCY had known about the drop in pressure but had continued to transmit propylene gas.

Taiwanese petrochemical company LCY has been blamed for a series of deadly explosions that killed 28 people on July 31 in Kaohsiung

Taiwanese petrochemical company LCY has been blamed for a series of deadly explosions that killed 28 people on July 31 in Kaohsiung

By the time it shut off the supply, some 100 tons of propylene gas had already leaked into the ground.

Officials added that LCY failed to notify authorities of the leak in time, preventing a complete evacuation of the area.

Chen Chin-der, the director of Kaohsiung’s Environmental Protection Bureau, said authorities were only able to identify the gas minutes before the blasts started.

The CEO of LCY said that the company would accept full responsibility if it turned out to be at fault.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou visited the site of the explosion on Saturday, and vowed a full investigation.

“Everyone is concerned about the cause of the incident and the cabinet has set up a task force to investigate and hope to find the cause in the shortest possible time” he said.

“Even though this incident happened in Kaohsiung, every Taiwanese person’s heart is hurt” he added.

Kaohsiung’s mayor, Chen Chu, said the explosions had “shocked residents tremendously”.

“I instructed relevant units to thoroughly inspect the pipelines and call for the central government to review how to properly locate them so residents do not live under invisible threats and to prevent another tragedy,” Chen Chu said in a statement.

Taiwan’s Premier Jiang Yi-huan announced three days of national mourning, to start on August 5.

Flags will be flown at half-mast at government buildings and schools, to mourn both the Kaohsiung blast victims as well as the 48 people who died in a plane crash last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the search for two missing firemen is continuing, our correspondent Cindy Sui reports.

Sniffer dogs and sensor equipment are being used to search the rubble on one of the streets where the explosions took place.

The area where the explosions happened is just a short distance from the Kaohsiung City Hall, the popular Guanghua Night Market, the Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store and at least one major hotel.

Eyewitnesses and local residents reported smelling a strong gas odor about three hours before the explosions occurred. Many of them were worried and went outside.

One person wrote online that he called Kaohsiung City’s hotline for residents but was told that firefighters had arrived on the scene and to go back home.

As he expressed anger to the hotline operator, he saw a large explosion. Manhole covers were blown three stories high. Many people lay injured on the street.

Another resident who lived nearby said that he thought it was an earthquake at first and then he heard something like a bomb. The electricity was cut off. He immediately woke up his wife and children and they quickly left their home.

Several gas explosions in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung has killed 25 people and injured 267 others, officials say.

The blasts rocked the city’s Cianjhen district, scattering cars and blowing deep trenches in roads.

The exact cause of the gas leaks is not clear, but reports say the blasts were caused by ruptured pipelines.

Images of the scene showed major fires, upturned vehicles, bodies covered in debris and streets split in two.

The explosions happened late on Thursday night, with witnesses reporting huge fireballs soaring into the air. Taiwan’s prime minister said there were at least five blasts.

“The local fire department received calls of gas leaks late Thursday and then there was a series of blasts around midnight affecting an area of two to three sq km [one sq mile],” the National Fire Agency said in a statement.

The blasts rocked the city's Cianjhen district, scattering cars and blowing deep trenches in roads

The blasts rocked the city’s Cianjhen district, scattering cars and blowing deep trenches in roads (photo AFP)

Four firefighters who were investigating reports of a gas leak were said to be among the dead.

People in the area were evacuated to schools as teams battled the blazes. By Friday morning most fires were reported to have been extinguished.

The exact cause of the blasts had not yet been identified but several petrochemical companies had pipelines running along the sewage system in the district.

“The cause of the gas leak is still not clear at this moment. We suspect the leaked gas could be propylene,” said Economic Affairs Minister Chang Chia-chu.

One witness told AFP news agency he saw “fire soaring up to possibly 20 storey high after a blast”.

Another told Taiwan’s Central News Agency that the “explosions were like thunder and the road in front of my shop ripped open”.

People had been ordered to stay home from school and work in Kaohsiung’s Cianjhen and Lingya districts on Friday, local media reported.

Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu wrote on her Facebook page (in Chinese): “Rescue efforts are still underway.”

She urged everyone to “follow the instructions of rescue teams at the scene, and avoid standing around and watching”.

“The local government has already requested [gas suppliers] CPC and Hsin Kao Gas cut off the gas supply,” she added, urging residents to stay calm.

The local government has set up an emergency response centre.

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Multiple gas explosions in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung has killed at least five people and injured hundreds of others.

Reports say the blasts were caused by ruptured gas pipelines.

Several gas explosions have hit the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung

Several gas explosions have hit the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung

Images and footage from the scene show major fires and significant damage to roads and buildings.

“At least 212 people who were injured have been rushed to hospitals for treatment,” the National Fire Agency said.

Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that before the explosion, smoke with a “gas-like smell” came out of drains into the streets.

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Eight people have been injured in Istanbul on Saturday after a gas explosion in a five-story building, officials said.

Istanbul’s Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu ruled out any terrorist attack and said the blast was caused by a gas leak or a gas canister.

The explosion in a packaging workshop on the ground floor of the building caused a fire which was quickly extinguished, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Eight people have been injured in Istanbul after a gas explosion in a five-story building

Eight people have been injured in Istanbul after a gas explosion in a five-story building (photo Hurriyet)

Huseyin Avni Mutlu’s office said eight people were injured in the blast; one person was in serious condition. A fire-fighter was treated for smoke inhalation, it said.

Hurriyet newspaper and other reports said the injured included a pregnant woman who jumped from a balcony on the second floor of the building. The Turkish publication said some cars were overturned by the force of the blast.

It is the second explosion caused by gas in as many days in Turkey. On Friday, a blast in a bakery in the southwestern city of Denizli killed one person and injured 36 others.

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At least three people have been killed by an explosion that partly destroyed a block of flats in the northern French city of Reims, officials say.

Reims Mayor Adeline Hazan told BFM TV that the explosion at the four-storey building was probably caused by a gas leak.

Police said another 14 people were injured, including a number of children.

Images show one end of the building has collapsed.

Adeline Hazan told BFM TV the blast – which happened at 11:15 – had been “very strong” and had shattered windows in other buildings.

At least three people have been killed by an explosion that partly destroyed a block of flats in the northern French city of Reims

At least three people have been killed by an explosion that partly destroyed a block of flats in the northern French city of Reims

Two bodies were brought out of the rubble during the morning. A third was found later by search teams. By Sunday evening, two residents were still thought to be missing.

Ten flats were thought to be affected.

The building, in the Wilson area of Reims, is described as social housing dating back to the 1960s.

It was renovated several years ago but residents said that while the front had been re-painted, no change had been made to the interior structure.

A gas explosion in a flat in nearby Witry-les-Reims in early April left four people from the same family dead.

Housing Minister Cecile Duflot has promised a full inquiry.

“It appears the building was well maintained. All the necessary checks were carried out on the appliances,” Cecile Duflot said.

In a statement, President Francois Hollande sent his condolences to the victims’ families and his solidarity to the city of Reims.

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At least 15 people have been injured after a suspected gas explosion triggered a huge blaze in Country Club Plaza shopping district in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas City official Troy Schulte said the authorities did not know if anyone was killed in the fire, which destroyed a restaurant and other businesses.

Local TV showed flames shooting out of the Country Club Plaza retail area.

Troy Schulte said officials believed the explosion may have stemmed from a utility contractor accident.

A doctor with St Luke’s Hospital told reporters two of the injured being treated there were in critical condition, one with “pretty severe burns”.

Six others walked into the hospital with minor injuries.

The Kansas City Star reported a total of 15 patients across three area hospitals, including St Luke’s Hospital.

A manager of the restaurant destroyed in the blaze, JJ’s, told police three people were unaccounted for but it was unclear if they had left earlier.

Sniffer dogs were being used to search the smoldering wreckage for bodies, city officials said.

At least 15 people have been injured after a suspected gas explosion triggered a huge blaze in Country Club Plaza shopping district in Kansas City, Missouri

At least 15 people have been injured after a suspected gas explosion triggered a huge blaze in Country Club Plaza shopping district in Kansas City, Missouri

First images from the scene showed firefighters and other emergency teams battling a massive blaze that appeared to have engulfed an entire block.

Jill Chadwick, spokeswoman for the University of Kansas Hospital, said one patient had told her that the restaurant was being evacuated when the blast happened and the roof fell in.

“This patient told me there had been the smell of gas and that they had evacuated any patrons and that employees of the restaurant were in the process of shutting off gas valves and trying to get out of the restaurant when there was the explosion,” she said.

“He said the last thing he remembered was the roof collapsing. I asked him how he got out and he said the front of the restaurant was blown away and he just walked through the rubble.”

The initial blast was felt beyond the shopping area.

The shopping area, established in 1922, is based on the architecture of Seville, Spain, and includes retail, restaurants, apartments and offices.

There were signs saying that utility work was being done in area ahead of the blast, and one man told the Star he saw Missouri Gas Energy workers inside JJs with gas detectors.

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Streets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have been filled with masonry and cars have been covered with debris after two buildings – one nearly 20 storeys high – have collapsed in the city.

According to officials, up to 11 people are believed to be inside the buildings and five people have been rescued.

The cause of the collapse remains unclear, but witnesses spoke of an explosion and a strong smell of gas.

City Mayor Eduardo Paes said that they were focusing on rescue efforts before looking into the incident’s cause.

Rescue workers were able to pull a cleaner from inside one of the elevators in the rubble after he managed to call a friend on his mobile phone.

Streets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have been filled with masonry and cars have been covered with debris after two buildings - one nearly 20 storeys high - have collapsed in the city

Streets in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, have been filled with masonry and cars have been covered with debris after two buildings - one nearly 20 storeys high - have collapsed in the city

The buildings – located near the Municipal Theatre and the headquarters of oil giant Petrobras – crushed a four-storey construction site on their way down.

The area surrounding the buildings is now covered in rubble, with several cars partially covered by debris.

Dozens of emergency workers are at the scene and police have cordoned off the area.

Electricity to the street has been cut off for safety reasons.

One witness, who identified himself as Gilbert, told Reuters news agency: “It was like an earthquake. First some pieces of the buildings started to fall down. People started to run. And then it all fell down at once.”

The incident comes a little over three months after a suspected gas explosion at a restaurant in the city left three people dead.

Concerns have been raised about the state of Rio de Janeiro’s infrastructure as Brazil prepares to host football’s World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later.

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