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December 5, 2009

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Gas leaks in as victims sleep; 2 dead, 5 in critical condition

TWO people were killed and 23 hospitalized for medical treatment in a gas leak accident in Shanghai's Hongkou District yesterday morning.

Five of the injured victims were still in critical condition last night.

Most of the victims are residents in four residential buildings on Xi'an Road who were asleep when the gas snuck into their houses.

Officials said the gas pipe under Xi'an Road was ruptured by "an external force" and the gas went to the houses directly through the sewer, according to their preliminary investigation.

Witnesses who saw the 30-centimeter-caliber pipe after it was dug up said the rupture in the pipe was only about a dozen centimeters from the sewer of the houses.

The cause was under investigation last night. Residents speculated that the frequent driving of heavy trucks might have been put a lot of pressure on the pipe and caused the break.

The resident and owner of a Lanzhou noodle store at the intersection of Xi'an Road and Hanyang Road E. said his family sensed the gas at about 5am. Three of his children were poisoned and sent to the Xinhua Hospital.

"I got up early to work and there was a strong smell of gas coming from outside the window, and then I found my children were sick," said Ma Yiziri, the owner of the store.

Ma's children were in stable condition yesterday afternoon.

The mass gas poisoning was found at about 7:35am. A neighbor found no one had got up in No. 8, No. 10, No. 12 and Lane 14 on Xi'an Road, which was weird because the residents work early in the morning.

Receiving no response after knocking the doors, the neighbor broke in through the window and found people lying on the ground.

"The smell of gas was pervasive," the man told Shanghai television news last night.

A dozen ambulances rushed to the scene with police and fire departments, witnesses said, and the road was soon cordoned and residents evacuated.

A 51-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man were pronounced dead on arrival, Hongkou police said.

The woman was a Jiangxi Province native who sold aluminum alloy at home while the man came from Shandong Province and worked as a street cleaner.

Two medical staff were poisoned in the rescue effort and were sent to the hospital.

Six victims were sent to the Xinhua Hospital at 8:20am: An 8-year-old girl, three young victims in their twenties and two middle-aged victims.

One middle-aged victim was still in a critical situation last night, while the other five were in stable condition, according to the hospital.

"We have launched an emergency plan with elite experts and the victims have been taken into the hyperbaric oxygen chamber," said Luo Ling, official of the hospital.

Luo said oxygen inhalation was the only efficient way to treat patients suffering gas poisoning. One victim had already revived through the therapy.

Ambulances were still at the scene yesterday noon while the district government set up an emergency team.

A smell of gas could still be sensed at the scene yesterday afternoon.

Shanghai Gas Co Ltd replaced the cracked pipe in the afternoon and did not find any other leaks around the area, officials said.

The evacuated residents returned to their homes last night.


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