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Flammable gas all but purged from pipes

TAIPEI--Progress has been faster than expected in the removal of hundreds of tons of flammable gas still in a pipe under the site hardest hit in Thursday's fatal gas blasts in Kaohsiung, an official said Monday.

Deputy Economics Minister Duh Tyzz-jiun said that almost all the 260 metric tons of propylene remaining in the pipe had been removed as of Monday morning, ahead of previous estimates that the removal would not be completed until after Aug. 10.

The remnants were expected to be cleared by 5 a.m. the following day, according to Chen Chin-der, director of Kaohsiung's Environmental Protection Bureau, which will lessen the risk for rescuers sifting through the debris looking for survivors.

The 26-kilometer pipeline in question leads to China Petrochemical Development Corp.'s (CPDC's) plant in Kaohsiung's Dashe District. It is adjacent to a pipe thought to have leaked propylene in the hours leading up to the explosions that killed 28 people and injured 307.

In a surprise announcement, Chen said there was also propylene remaining in the allegedly leaking pipe used by LCY Chemical Corp., which the petrochemical firm denied.

Chen said the remaining propylene in the firm's pipe would not disperse by itself just because the pipe is damaged, adding that special measures need to be taken to purge the remnants.

A repair patch on the pipe used by LCY Chemical was found to be loose during an initial investigation, triggering suspicions that this could be the source of the leakage of tons of propylene that caused the multiple blasts.

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