TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan authorities fined a golf ball manufacturer 2.4 million New Taiwan dollars ($75,000) on Monday and warned of criminal charges for storing 30 times the legal limit of hazardous material and other violations after a major factory fire killed nine people and left one other missing.

The mayor of Pingtung county said at a news conference that Launch Technologies Co. had 3,000 tons of organic peroxides on site, far more than the 100 tons of hazardous material that is permitted, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.

Those responsible would be held accountable for public endangerment and negligent manslaughter, Mayor Chou Chun-mi said.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

It’s unclear what caused the fire on Friday, but two explosions in the already burning building trapped firefighters and workers under rubble. Four firefighters were among the nine who died. More than 100 other people were injured.

Organic peroxides, which are highly flammable, are used in a variety of rubber products including golf ball cores. Launch Technologies is one of the world’s major golf ball makers, producing 20% of the global supply last year.

Taiwanese law requires organic peroxides to be stored in a separate warehouse building, but Launch Technologies kept the material on the first floor of the factory building, Chou said.

Larger fines were assessed for a 20-minute delay in reporting the fire, failing to designate a point person to help the fire commander and failing to give a complete inventory of the organic peroxides on site when firefighters arrived, she said.

Launch Technologies, which was founded in 2006, has been fined before.

Since 2018, the company has been fined 200,000 New Taiwan dollars ($6,200) for safety and health violations and another 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($9,300) over labor conditions, according to Taiwan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The company was also fined 300,000 New Taiwan dollars ($9,300) for air pollution violations in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report.

In 2011, a court ordered Launch Technologies to pay compensation to five workers who had sued the company for working overtime beyond the legal limit and in polluted conditions harmful to their health.

Company general manager Lu Ying-cheng said at a news conference on Sunday that Launch Technologies has made improvements to the work environment in recent years.

“The pace of improvement has not been fast enough, and we will continue to review and improve the situation in accordance with regulations,” Lu said, according to a statement posted on the Taiwan Stock Exchange website.


Associated Press researcher Wanqing Chen in Beijing contributed to this report.


This story corrects the gender of Pingtung mayor.