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June 29, 2017

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Safety group talks gas explosions, nat'l security

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwan Safety and Security Industry Association (TSSIA,台灣安全設備與服務產業協會) held a press conference yesterday almost two weeks after the Kaohsiung gas explosions, calling for the establishment of a crisis management system in the southern city, as well as discussing the government's overall planning on national security and the petrochemical industries.

The TSSIA integrated opinions from experts and international petrochemical companies, and concluded four possible causes for the Kaohsiung gas explosions. First, the construction of the pipelines was ill advised; the volatile gas pipelines should not run through culverts. Secondly, the government did not thoroughly inspect and update the infographics of all buried pipelines.

Third, there was no new technology, such as an updated perceptron or interceptor, implemented in the construction of pipelines. Fourth, the crisis management of a disaster of this scale fell drastically short. In addition, there was no special commission dedicated to disaster response; this in turn led to slow rescue activities, said the TSSIA.

Wu Rong-i (吳榮義), chairman of the TSSIA, suggested that local governments should set up intragovernmental groups for crisis management. The central government should form a coordination group for disaster relief as well.

Chang Jei-pai (張振平), professor at Chang Jung Christian University, said that a consistently updated Geographic Information System (GIS) of the petrochemical industrial pipelines is needed. The officials should begin a general survey of the pipeline system to prevent similar disasters from happening again.

Chang also said that the lack of safety regulations for the construction of infrastructures such as the pipelines is a problem. The management of each part of infrastructure design, construction, supervision, inspection, maintenance and reforms should be regulated by law so as to have a more accurate control system.

TSSIA Vice Chairman Lin Shan-zhong (林山中) said that the relevant corporations in the Kaohsiung gas explosions need to take up the responsibility and found a disaster fund together in case of future accidents. He stressed that, if any corporation is reluctant to do so, the government can imitate mainland China's idea to impose a "security tax" on these corporations.

Chang pointed out that the government is facing a shortage of personnel, making it hard for them to supervise the operation of all the nation's infrastructure. Moreover, people cannot trust the petrochemical corporations' self-management. Therefore, a third party's surveillance is necessary.

The Kaohsiung gas explosions revealed the potential industrial problems that Taiwan faces. The TSSAI said that the local and central governments should rethink their standard operating procedures in the wake of this disaster, as well as review and revise the relevant regulations to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.

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