TAIPEI (AFP) - Prosecutors said deadly gas explosions in Taiwan were caused by "multiple human errors" on Thursday as they charged 12 people over the blasts, including the head of a chemical company and government officials.
The disaster killed 32 people and wounded more than 300 in southern Kaohsiung city in July as explosions in underground pipelines sparked massive fires and left trenches running down the middle of some streets, with vehicles thrown onto the roofs of buildings.
In the first indictments since the blasts, prosecutors charged the chairman of LCY Chemical Corp, which operated the pipeline, and 11 others with causing death and injuries by professional negligence and offences against public safety. "Multiple human errors led to the grave tragedies of 32 people losing their lives and 321 people being injured," prosecutors said in a statement.
Kaohsiung-based LCY Chemical failed to regularly maintain the underground pipes transporting propene which caused them to rust and damage, leading to the power blasts, the district prosecutor's office said. The company also conducted the wrong procedure to test the leaks and continued to transport the gas to its factory even though it was aware of possible leaks, it added.
Three employees of a company contracted by LCY Chemical to deliver propene and three former officials who failed to properly monitor and inspect construction of the pipelines when they were completed in the 1990s were also charged.
The rest of those indicted were all LCY Chemical employees.
Prosecutors cleared Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu and four city government officials of any wrongdoing.
City officials have said that around 10 tonnes of propene leaked from the underground pipelines operated by LCY Chemical in the hours before the first explosion which reported.
Kaohsiung lies adjacent to a huge petrochemical complex housing dozens of plants, and many pipelines run under the densely-packed city.
Kaohsiung's deputy mayor and three other officials in the city government resigned to take political responsibility for the accident.