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Gas explosions a collective sin, political bickering must cease

Now that the initial criminal investigation into the disastrous Kaohsiung gas explosion incident of July 31 has been completed, politicians are blaming government officials for dereliction of duty in letting the catastrophe happen.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers have demanded that Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Minister of Economic Affairs Chang Chia-juch step down to take responsibility for the death of 30 people in the propene gas explosions. Chang has resigned and his vice minister, Woody Duh, vowed to follow suit but was eventually appointed to the economics minister post. Vice President Wu Den-yih was also blasted for approving the pipeline system for LCY Chemical Corporation in 1990.

The opposition party's adversaries in the Kuomintang (KMT) are calling for the resignation of the mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu, who had to ax a deputy mayor and three top department chiefs. She offered a public apology for their “lack of coordination” while inspecting the LCY propene pipelines in 1991 and for failing to take appropriate action shortly before and right after the propene gas leaks from LCY pipes exploded, killing some and wounding others in residential districts of the southern Taiwanese port city. It was sheer luck that the explosions did not occur during the day. Had they occurred long before midnight, a lot more people would have been injured.

Of course, these politicians are firing a broadside at government officials of their rival party to make political hay out of the tragic incident in order to win the all-important nationwide local elections scheduled for Nov. 29. They shouldn't, because the Kaohsiung gas explosions are Taiwan's collective sin.

Taiwan needs fast economic growth. Kaohsiung was chosen as the host of Taiwan's first export processing zone in 1966. It became the center of Taiwan's petrochemical industry. Oil and gas pipelines were laid underground to supply the raw materials needed for petrochemical products for the world market.

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