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LCY chair pledges compensation at blast victims' memorial service

TAIPEI--The head of the petrochemical company suspected of being responsible for last week's deadly blasts in Kaohsiung promised Thursday to compensate victims and their families.

LCY Chemical Corp. (李長榮化工) Chairman Lee Bowei (李謀偉) made the pledge at a public memorial service to honor 22 of the 30 people killed Thursday when propylene ignited, tearing open six kilometers of roads in the southern city. The other eight presumably had private arrangements.

The propylene, believed to have been leaked from an underground pipeline belonging to petrochemical firm LCY, also injured 310 people, according to central government data.

The service began at 2:00 p.m., but Lee did not arrive until nearly an hour later. He was immediately thronged by reporters and furious crowds venting their anger over losing family members.

Lee kneeled before an altar to pay his respects.

As he was about to leave, he was surrounded again by reporters asking if he would take full responsibility for the blasts. Lee bowed and apologized and pledged that his company would offer compensation.

The service was also attended by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) and Minister without Portfolio Yang Chiu-hsing (楊秋興), both of whom are running for mayor of the southern city in November's election. Vice Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) was also there.

Also Thursday, the Cabinet honored five firefighters and a fire department official who died in the blasts.

A day after the blasts occurred late July 31, Kaohsiung's environmental protection agency began pointing its finger at LCY after it came to light that a pipe used by the company leaked propylene.

Prosecutors, however, have not named a responsible party pending further checks as part of their ongoing probe.

Local media on Thursday were looking for other companies and individuals that might also be held accountable. That includes the Kaohsiung City Government, which built the underground waterway through which the LCY pipe passes and state-run oil company CPC Corp. (中油), Taiwan.

While the city government at first said it was unaware of the LCY pipe, a document from CPC showed the government had knowledge of it in 2012 before work began on a light rail system.

Some also blame CPC for laying down the suspected propylene pipe in 1990 as part of a project to replace old oil pipes in the city.

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