Taiwan gas blast kills 22

An explosion caused by a gas leak in Taiwan’s second city killed 22 people, injured 270 and sent flames shooting 15 storeys into the air, a government agency said.

The Central Disaster Emergency Operation Center said police and soldiers had been drafted in to help firefighters in a neighbourhood of apartment buildings and small shops in the port city of Kaohsiung.

Media reports suggested the death toll was likely to rise sharply.

A Reuters photographer said the blast had set a long stretch of Kaihsuan Road on fire, sent flames dozens of metres into the air and overturned parked cars. Rescuers formed a chain to pull dozens of injured from a vast crater in the street.

Local authorities set up an emergency centre to be staffed by servicemen coordinating the rescue operation.