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TAIPEI - More than 10,000 villagers had to be evacuated after an explosion rocked a chemical plant in an industrial zone in Mailiao township, Yunlin county in central-southern Taiwan Sunday afternoon.
The explosion at an aromatics plant of Formosa Chemical and Fiber Corp at about 2 pm shattered glass in nearby buildings and shook houses kilometers away, local police and fire fighters said.
Though there have been no immediate reports of human death or injuries, authorities have ordered the evacuation of more than 10,000 villagers of five nearby villages due to gas leak after the explosion.
Footage posted online by witnesses showed dense plume of black smoke billowing into the sky, and loud explosions were heard far from the chemical plant.
"The explosion was very powerful as it was heard across the county," Cai Chang-kun, head of Mailiao township, told the press after the blast, adding he had demanded the chemical plant suspend operation and investigate the cause of the accident.
Fire fighters and police arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after receiving an explosion report. Preliminary investigations show a gas leak due to a fracture in a liquefied natural gas pipeline could have led to the explosion, according to local TV reports.
Zhang Li-shan, magistrate of Yunlin county, said she has instructed a special team to look into the accident and strengthen the monitoring of air pollution to decide whether the black fume would cause damage to humans.
The chemical plant was handed a preliminary fine of NT$5 million (about $162,000) over the violation of air pollution regulations by the county government.