Officials from LCY Chemical Corp., a petrochemical company based in Taipei, have apologized after a series of explosions rocked the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan last week.
Media reports said that 28 people were killed in the blasts and more than 300 others were injured. Authorities in Kaohsiung blamed the explosions on leaks from an underground pipeline carrying propene, which is used in the production of plastics.
According to the New York Times, powerful chemical smells were reported by residents in the Cianjhen District of the city about three hours before the explosions on Thursday night. Authorities were unable to find the source of the leak before the blasts happened, the International Business Times said.
Three miles of roadway collapsed in the explosions, burying vehicles. The blasts were also followed by huge fires which destroyed many homes.
Bowei Lee, chairman of LCY, told a news conference that he "solemnly apologized" for the disaster.
In a statement, the company said that it would not "shun any responsibility we should bear" and denied claims that it was hiding information, saying that it was fully cooperating with investigators.
At this stage it is not clear what happened but the pipes could have been affected by design flaws, corrosion or externally inflicted damage, Lee noted. State-owned oil company CPC Corp. is responsible for designing, constructing and maintaining the pipelines, he said.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou responded to the disaster by ordering the government to carry out an inventory and review the safety of all of Taiwan's underground pipelines and cables.