At least 25 people are now believed dead and over 270 reported injured after a series of huge gas explosions rocked Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-biggest city.
Flames shot 15 storeys into the air, as the blasts set buildings ablaze, overturned cars and destroyed the road surface, with big holes opening up.
A major rescue operation saw hundreds of soldiers deployed to the disaster zone. People are feared trapped under the rubble and the death toll could rise.
At least four firefighters are among those killed in the set of explosions around midnight on Thursday. Local people in the southern city described the scenes as like an earthquake.
The blasts sent flames racing through the district and smoke billowing high into the air. Flames shot up from sewers and gutters and water from burst mains gushed through the streets. Victims overcome by smoke were resuscitated in the street.
The exact cause of the explosions is not known but authorities said initial assessments suggested it could be a leak of propylene, a material used in the production of plastics and fabrics.
Pipelines operated by a number of petrochemical firms reportedly operate along Kaohsiung’s sewage system.
By morning, firefighters had regained control of the district and were moving in protective white gear through streets covered in upturned asphalt and smashed vehicles.
People in the affected areas have been urged to stay at home today.