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TAIPEI – Coloured powder caught fire in a park in Taiwan’s New Taipei city on Saturday night (June 27), injuring more than 500 people at a themed party.
The number of people injured rose to 516 on Sunday, government officials said, with more than 180 still in intensive care. The injured included four mainland Chinese and two foreigners. An 18-year-old from Taiwan was burned on 90 per cent of her body.
The Singapore Trade Office in Taipei said that a Singaporean was among those injured. It is in touch with the Singaporean’s family to render consular assistance.
The fire was sparked at about 8.30pm by an accidental explosion of a colored theatrical powder thrown from the stage at Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City in front of about 1,000 people, the fire agency and local media said. The powder for the one-time event called Color Play Asia ignited along the ground, mainly burning people’s lower bodies, said Mr Wang Wei-sheng, a liaison with theNew Taipei City fire department command centre.
Amateur video captured by an attendee and broadcast on Cti TV showed coloured powder being sprayed from a stage catching fire and spreading into areas where revellers were standing.
Authorities have banned the use of the powder until the investigation is completed.
The official injury toll had risen from slightly more than 200 at midnight, because about 300 people had made their own way to hospitals. Eight people had life-threatening injuries, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The agency reported witnesses as saying the fire spread quickly after powder was blown into the air.
Central News Agency said that police were questioning two park workers who had launched the powder as well as the party’s on-site organiser and two technicians. They may face charges of professional negligence causing serious injuries and endangering the public, it said.
On Saturday, burn victims lay on inflatable pool rings as they awaited stretchers, cable TV network TVBS showed. Many had burns to their faces, arms and legs, according to Cti TV. “There was blood and people were on fire,” one injured man said.
Soldiers, army vehicles and medical services joined the rescue effort. Video showed rescue workers and bystanders carrying burned and injured people on their backs, in inflatable boats and on stretchers to get medical treatment. Hospitals in four municipal precincts, along with Taipei, are treating sufferers.
A thorough investigation into what caused the accident will be carried out, New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu said in a news conference carried on cable TV networks. Emergency medical personnel from neighbouring cities and Taiwan’s military have been asked to assist in rescue efforts, Mr Chu said.
“We are very sorry about what happened and we will investigate the cause to find out who is responsible,” Mr Chu, adding that the park had been ordered to shut down. The amusement park has been closed temporarily, it said on its website on Sunday.
It wasn’t clear if the coloured powder was part of a performance. The cause of the fire is being investigated.