Rescuers sift through rubble after Taiwan factory blast kills 7, injures dozens

Rescue workers and firefighters gather outside a golf ball factory that was hit by an explosion and fire in Pingtung County, Taiwan, on Saturday. At least seven people died and 98 injured in the blast at the Launch Technologies facility. Photo by Taiwan Presidential Office/EPA-EFE

Sept. 23 (UPI) -- Rescuers combed through the rubble of a golf ball factory in Taiwan on Saturday looking for survivors in the wake of an explosion that killed at least seven and injured dozens more.

The blaze at the Launch Technologies Co. plant in Pingtung City was finally extinguished late Saturday afternoon, about 22 hours after the initial blast occurred in an industrial park located in southern Taiwan about 225 miles south of Taipei.

Some 98 people were injured in the blast and three workers at the plant remained missing as night fell on Saturday, local fire officials told the Taiwan News.

Four of those who died were firefighters who rushed to respond to the initial blast. Ten other firefighters were injured.

Nineteen of the injured were citizens of Vietnam working at the golf ball plant, according to Hanoi's economic and cultural office in Taiwan. Three of them were critically injured but their lives were not in danger, officials said.

Surveillance camera video obtained by the Taiwan News showed the moment of the explosion, revealing an intense ball of fire emanating from behind a building in the foreground.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen late on Friday ordered rescuers and firefighters to the scene and while Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang is also arrived at the scene to oversee the relief efforts.

The president said she is "deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of the firefighters" and added that no toxic substances had been detected in the air around the blast site.

Prosecutors on Saturday announced they have opened an investigation into the cause of the explosion, while Taiwan's labor ministry said it has begun an occupational safety probe of Launch Technologies, which claims at 20% share of the global golf ball market and reportedly employs approximately 680 people in Taiwan.

The company had not issued a statement on the disaster as of Saturday evening local time.