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Ma backs state compensation for blast-affected Kaohsiung

KAOHSIUNG--President Ma Ying-jeou expressed support yesterday for a proposal to provide state compensation for citizens affected by the deadly gas explosions that rocked Kaohsiung on July 31.

The matter would not necessarily have to be settled through legal proceedings, which usually take a long time, Ma said during a meeting with representatives of affected households in Linrong ward of the city's Lingya District.

He suggested that the Kaohsiung City government take the initiative to determine the residents' eligibility for state compensation as soon as possible.

If the residents are determined to be eligible, the city government should negotiate and reach a settlement with them in a timely manner to allow them to restore their lives back to normal as soon as possible, he said.

At the meeting, also attended by Kaohsiung Deputy Mayor Lee Yung-te, the representatives took turns to criticize the city government.

They said that in the three weeks since the explosions, the local government has done nothing to help area residents except for giving them consolation money ranging from NT$6,000 to NT$20,000.

Charging that the accident was caused by human error and that the city government was partly responsible, the representatives said they will seek state compensation from the government.

The explosions are believed to have been caused by a leak in an underground propylene pipeline owned by LCY Chemical Corp.

The city government's failure to identify the source and stop the leak has been blamed for the spread of the highly flammable gas, which eventually led to a series of explosions that tore apart several kilometers of streets in Cianjhen and Lingya districts, killing at least 30 people and leaving over 300 injured.

During a separate meeting held in Jhudong ward in Cianjhen District, representatives of affected households urged the central government to set up a special fund to help Kaohsiung authorities conduct a comprehensive safety inspection of underground pipelines in the city.

They also demanded that the government inspect buildings in the affected areas, many of which were damaged in the explosions.

In response, Ma reiterated that the central government will fully cooperate with Kaohsiung in dealing with the aftermath of the disaster.

He promised that those affected will get their due compensation while the parties responsible will be held accountable.

Also, the problems that led to the disaster will be identified and resolved so as to prevent similar tragedies, he said.

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