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Religious service held in Kaohsiung for disaster victims

KAOHSIUNG -- A national religious service was held in Kaohsiung on Tuesday in memory of the victims of last month's explosions in Kaohsiung and plane crash in Penghu.

The event brought together approximately 10,000 people from more than 30 local religious groups covering Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism.

Buddhist Master Hsing Yun, the founder of Fo Guang Shan, said he hoped the power of religion will allow the victims to rest in peace and the survivors to live happily and safely.

The gas explosions tore through Kaohsiung on July 31 just before midnight, killing 30 people and injuring over 300.

They followed the crash of a TransAsia Airways flight in the outlying island county of Penghu on July 23, which killed 48 of the 58 people on board. The flight originated in Kaohsiung.

President Ma Ying-jeou, who also attended Tuesday's event, commended the soldiers and firefighters who risked their lives to rescue people, including some who sacrificed themselves in the line of duty.

He reassured that the government will provide the necessary assistance to help Kaohsiung residents get back on their feet as soon as possible.

He also gave the latest updates on both tragedies. Prosecutors have launched investigations to try to find out the causes of the disasters, which happened just one week apart.

Local governments across Taiwan have been asked to reflect on the Kaohsiung explosions and conduct a comprehensive inspection of underground pipelines to prevent similar disasters, he added.

He expressed appreciation for the businesses and people who have made generous contributions to the relief and reconstruction efforts and thanked volunteers and religious groups that have stood on the frontline to help.

Meanwhile, Chen Kuan-jung, the son of Jhudong borough chief Chen Ching-fa, who died in the explosion, said he hoped only for two “gifts” for his father and residents of Kaohsiung.

The first was for state-run oil company CPC Corp., Taiwan to move its headquarters to Kaohsiung, he said. Despite its many refining and naphtha cracking facilities in Kaohsiung, CPC does not pay taxes to the city because its headquarters is in Taipei.

His second request was for the Cabinet to launch a special examination of Kaohsiung's underground drainage and pipeline systems to ensure their safety, Chen said.

The petrochemical industry in Kaohsiung has been brought under scrutiny after the explosions, which are suspected of having been caused by a leak in a propylene pipeline owned by LCY Chemical Corp.

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President Ma Ying-jeou, front row seventh left, holds his palms together in prayer with Vice President Wu Den-yi (吳敦義), front row sixth left, and many others at a religious service held in Kaohsiung, yesterday. (CNA)

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