Watch above: Francis Silvaggio reports on the series of gas explosions that hit Kaohsiung late Thursday.
At least 15 people died and hundreds were injured in southern Taiwan late Thursday when a series of gas explosions erupted in the city of Kaohsiung.
Flames and gas plumes burst upward from beneath city streets, tossing cars, damaging buildings and cratering roadways.
Video from Taiwanese broadcaster ETTV showed a large fire burning the middle of a street, with smoke rising into the night sky.
Mobile phone video captured the sound of a secondary explosion as flames leapt at least nine metres into the air.
Taiwan’s Premier Jiang Yi-huah said at least five explosions shook the city’s Cianjhen and Lingya districts.
The National Fire Agency said five firefighters are among the dead.
According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency, hundreds of soldiers and firefighters from Tainan City and Pingtung County were brought in to help deal with the situation and rescue operations.
The gas reportedly began leaking from the sewer system at about 9 p.m. local time.
“The local fire department received calls of gas leaks late Thursday and then there was a series of blasts around midnight affecting an area of two to three square kilometres,” BBC reported a National Fire Agency statement saying.
Witnesses described smoke with “gas like smell” rising from drains, according to Reuters.
A dashboard camera video posted to YouTube showed smoke rising from one roadway, a plume of flames from the drain along another.
The source of the leak had not yet been located. But Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu said several petrochemical companies have pipelines built along the sewage system in Chian-Chen district, which has both factories and residential buildings.
Kaohsiung is Taiwan’s second-most populace city, with approximately 2.77 million residents.
With files from The Associated Press
© Shaw Media, 2014