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September 21, 2017

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Premier ready to meet with Chen Chu

TAIPEI--Premier Jiang Yi-huah has ordered preparations for a meeting with Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu on enhancing safety in the petrochemical industry following a series of deadly gas explosions that ripped through the southern city late last month, the Cabinet spokesperson said Sunday.

Jiang and Chen had a phone conversation last Friday to discuss mainly rescue and relief operations and Chen raised the idea of a meeting to discuss the future of the petrochemical industry following the Kaohsiung blasts, Sun Lih-chyun said.

The premier deemed the meeting and the issues to be discussed important and has instructed the Ministry of Economic Affairs and other related agencies to prepare data for the discussion, Sun said.

However, a date has not yet been decided for the two to meet, according to Sun.

A report in the Sunday edition of the Apple Daily, headlined "Premier not eager to meet Chen over reconstruction," was inaccurate, Sun said.

Chen, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, had said Saturday that she would like to meet with Jiang on Aug. 15 to also talk about the lines of responsibility between the central and local governments on regulating the network of undergrounds pipelines owned by petrochemical companies in Kaohsiung.

The July 31 blasts were believed to have been caused by a leaking underground pipeline carrying propylene.

However, Chen said Sunday that the situation at the disaster zone has been exacerbated by overnight torrential downpours in Kaohsiung and that she will wait until the rain stops to travel north to Taipei for the meeting with Jiang.

At least 30 people were killed and more than 300 injured in the series of underground gas explosions that ripped through the streets of downtown Kaohsiung just before midnight on July 31.

Chen expressed gratitude to the Executive Yuan on Sunday for its allocation of funds to reconstruct the areas of her city that were torn by a series of deadly gas explosions late last month.

During an inspection of the disaster zone after heavy rain earlier in the day, Chen thanked the premier for helping to obtain NT$1.6 billion (US$53.3 million) in central government funds to rebuild the devastated downtown area.

Chen, a member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, also said that as soon as the rain stops she will travel north to Taipei for a meeting with Jiang to discuss the issue of the petrochemical pipeline network that runs under Kaohsiung.

The city, home to dozens of petrochemical factories, was rocked on July 31 by a series of blasts that are believed to have been caused by a leaking underground propylene pipeline. The situation has been exacerbated by heavy rain that has been drenching Kaohsiung since Saturday night as a result of a strong moist southwesterly front, Chen said.

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