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Evacuees return after Taiwan gas explosions

  • A relative, right, of a victim in the multiple explosions from an underground gas leak is consoled during a funeral service in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT

    A relative, right, of a victim in the multiple explosions from an underground gas leak is consoled during a funeral service in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT

  • Locals survey the damage from a massive gas explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Scores of people were killed and more than 200 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

    Locals survey the damage from a massive gas explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Scores of people were killed and more than 200 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

  • Rescue workers use a sniffer dog to look for missing persons believed to be buried as firetrucks lie damaged after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

    Rescue workers use a sniffer dog to look for missing persons believed to be buried as firetrucks lie damaged after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

  • Damaged vehicles lie in the rubble after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of five explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

    Damaged vehicles lie in the rubble after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of five explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

  • Flames from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.  A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo)  TAIWAN OUT

    Flames from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT

  • Vehicles are left lie in a destroyed street following multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed scores of people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT

    Vehicles are left lie in a destroyed street following multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed scores of people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT

  • Soldiers use electronic sensors to search for missing persons believed to be buried after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

    Soldiers use electronic sensors to search for missing persons believed to be buried after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

  • A relative, right, of a victim in the multiple explosions from an underground gas leak is consoled during a funeral service in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
  • Locals survey the damage from a massive gas explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Scores of people were killed and more than 200 others injured when several underground gas explosions ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city overnight, hurling concrete through the air and blasting long trenches in the streets, authorities said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
  • Rescue workers use a sniffer dog to look for missing persons believed to be buried as firetrucks lie damaged after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
  • Damaged vehicles lie in the rubble after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of five explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
  • Flames from an explosion from an underground gas leak in the streets of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.  A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed several people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo)  TAIWAN OUT
  • Vehicles are left lie in a destroyed street following multiple explosions from an underground gas leak in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, early Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A massive gas leakage early Friday caused five explosions that killed scores of people and injured over 200 in the southern Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung. (AP Photo) TAIWAN OUT
  • Soldiers use electronic sensors to search for missing persons believed to be buried after massive gas explosions in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. A series of explosions about midnight Thursday and early Friday ripped through Taiwan's second-largest city, killing scores of people, Taiwan's National Fire Agency said Friday. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Hundreds of people who fled from gas pipeline explosions in Taiwan’s second-largest city returned to their homes yesterday after authorities said there was no more risk of blasts like the series that ripped apart streets overnight, killing 26 people and injuring 267.

With clean-up work under way in the 1-square mile area, investigators were turning to the task of determining the cause of the blasts, the industrial city’s worst such disaster in 16 years.

Most of the four ruptured street sections in the densely populated district of Kaohsiung were declared safe from further explosions by afternoon, a city spokesman said. A fire in a 10-yard-long section that burned through the night had also been put out.

Five explosions ripped through four streets starting about midnight yesterday, catapulting cars into the air and blasting cement rubble at passers-by, many of whom were out late at a nearby night market.

That came about three hours after a gas leak had been reported on Kaixuan Road, but emergency services had been unable to locate the source.

Four firefighters were among the victims and two were missing, while at least six fire trucks were flung into the rubble. The blasts sent flames shooting into the sky and left broad, yard-deep trenches down the middle of roads.

Many of the injured were still receiving medical treatment. The disaster was Taiwan’s second in as many weeks following the crash of a TransAsia Airways prop jet on the island of Penghu on July 23 that killed 48 people and injured 10.

“Last night around midnight, the house started shaking and I thought it was a huge earthquake, but when I opened the door, I saw white smoke all over and smelled gas,” said Chen Qing-tao, 38, who lives a short distance from the devastation.

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