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Ten tons of propene leaked in 2 hours before blasts: official

TAIPEI--Working journals show that 10 metric tons of propene leaked from piping systems used by LCY Chemical Corp. over two hours before Thursday's deadly explosions in Kaohsiung, the city's top environmental official said Sunday.

According to Environmental Protection Bureau head Chen Chin-der, the pipes in Cianjhen and Lingya districts saw a sudden pressure decrease from 42 kilometers per square centimeter (kg/cm2) to 13 kg/cm2 between 8:50 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Thursday night.

The abnormality indicated a leak in a pipeline used by LCY to obtain propene from China General Terminal & Distribution Corporation (CGTD), a provider of warehousing and transportation services of petrochemical raw materials, just hours before the explosions that took at least 28 lives and affected tens of thousands more.

CGTD turned off the pipe system at 9:30 p.m. after detecting the drop only to reopen it at 10:10 p.m. at the request of LCY, Chen said, pointing his finger at LCY for “failing to report the abnormality” to the environmental authorities.

That is suspected to be the cause of the 10 tons of leaked gas behind the explosions, Chen said, implying that LCY made mistakes that contributed to the tragedy.

Chen said if the abnormality had been alerted to the relevant authorities in time and sources of leaking stopped, the tragedy could have been avoided.

After investigation at the scene of the incident, prosecutors have found holes and patches along the pipes which they suspect may be the source of the explosions, according to Chen.

More incriminating is that the pipes belonging to LCY appear to be the only ones that continued supplying gas in the hours leading to the explosions.

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