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June 23, 2017

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Kaohsiung mayor thanks president, denies political fighting

KAOHSIUNG--Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday expressed appreciation for President Ma Ying-jeou's concern while dismissing suggestions of partisan antagonism as the city works to rebuild following the July 31 blasts that killed dozens.

Chen, a senior member of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and longtime mayor of the southern city, said her city administration is willing to cooperate with the Kuomintang (KMT)-controlled central government to undertake reconstruction after the propylene-fueled explosions.

Calling it a rare once-in-decades disaster, Chen said her city is doing its best to clean up after the explosions that left 30 dead and over 300 injured.

She noted that Kaohsiung is a city built on the petrochemical industry, pinning the propylene leak on problems that have built up over a long period of time.

The urgent thing now, she said, is to figure out how to help the affected residents, especially as days of torrential rains have inundated the streets that were ripped open during the blasts.

She thanked President Ma for comments of concern earlier in the day, adding "there is no fighting (between) us."

The president said at a morning news conference that he would dispatch additional military personnel to help with relief and rebuilding in the shaken city.

The mission will go irrespective of political affiliations in Taiwan's sharply divided atmosphere because "a problem for the people of Kaohsiung is a problem for all the people of Taiwan," he said.

Ma also called for prosecutors to get to the bottom of the cause of the July 31 explosions, which is believed to have been caused when the leaked propylene from a pipeline belonging to LCY Chemical Corp. (李長榮化工) ignited.

The post-disaster atmosphere has been tense with accusations flying between ruling and opposition parties over who is to take the greater share of blame.

Despite the conciliatory remarks between Ma and Chen, the war of words seemed like it would only continue later Monday as a lawyer hoped to launch legal proceedings against the Kaohsiung mayor.

Hung Tiao-ken filed a complaint with the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors Office to charge Chen with negligence and violating the criminal code, causing the lethal explosions.

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