TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A woman was found dead and 15 people received hospital treatment for severe burns after an explosion rocked a restaurant at lunchtime in a part of Taichung close to Feng Chia University (逢甲大學), reports said Tuesday.
Several of the injured were students who had just arrived or were standing in line to wait for their lunch, while others were residents of the building and restaurant staff, reports said. The combination of a gas leak with the turning on of an electric fan might have been the cause for the blaze.
Fire fighters found the body of a woman on the second floor of the building around 5 p.m., several hours after the blaze started.
A series of explosions were heard emanating from one restaurant in the city’s Xitun District at 12:22 p.m., and fire enveloped the site as well as an adjacent clothing store, a noodle restaurant and a curry place.
Five ambulances showed up to remove the injured from the premises. Of the initial victims, at least two had burns over 80 percent of their body. One of the injured was a 35-year-old pregnant woman and six others were reportedly students from nearby Feng Chia University.
Fire fighters had brought the blaze under control after they had mobilized 23 vehicles and 69 members of staff. Initial estimates of the material damage stood at NT$1.5 million (US$49,400), reports said.
Three floors above the restaurant where the explosion happened, a car parked on the street in front, several motorcycles and six apartments across the street were also destroyed or damaged in the conflagration, fire fighters said.
Reports in the media Tuesday evening said a 53-year-old man named Lin who went to the hospital by himself to receive treatment might have been at the origin of the disaster. He was reportedly on his first day on the job to deliver gas bottles to local businesses.
As he was replacing four bottles at the restaurant, he reportedly accidentally hit two of the bottles, which leaked liquid gas and fell downstairs into the basement. After several attempts to disperse the gas smell failed, he called in his boss from the gas business, who pulled up a heavy industrial fan.
The use of the fan could have triggered the explosion, as it would have spread the gas around the basement and one touch of a switch would have been enough to spark off a blast, according to media reports.
Video of the fire posted on Breaking News Commune: