On 27th June (Saturday), an explosion at Taiwan’s Formosa Fun Coast water park left hundreds of revellers injured after being caught up in flames.
According to The Guardian, Wang Wei-sheng, a liaison with the New Taipei city fire department command centre said that the fire was sparked by an accidental explosion of an unknown powder near the stage in front of about 1,000 people. While it has yet to emerge exactly how the blast was triggered, authorities have speculated that heat from the stage lighting or cigarettes could have ignited the corn starch.
CNA wrote that some partygoers were dressed only in swimwear and bystanders were seen pouring bottles of water on the scorched skin of the injured. Witnessed also said that there were trails of bloody footprints leading away from the stage.
A video later emerged, showing a massive fireball suddenly engulfing the stage, followed by screaming people running for their lives through flames. We’ll embed it below but please be warned that not everyone can stomach such a horrifying video so watch it at your own risk.
Authorities said ambulances had struggled to get near to the site and had to send in emergency workers with stretchers.
“We feel sad and regretful about the accident,” New Taipei’s mayor, Eric Chu, said. He said extra doctors had been called in to help treat the victims. “I’ve ordered the park to shut down immediately and be placed under a rigorous investigation,” he said.
As at time of writing, according to CNN, there was a total of 498 injuries, 43 hospitals are currently treating casualties, and 202 of the victims are in critical condition. Most of the victims, 485 of them, are Taiwanese, but 13 foreigners were also injured, CNA said. The majority of injured foreigners are female, and they include residents of Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Officials said many of the victims appeared to be in their 20s or younger.
CNA reported that 20-year-old partygoer Lee Pei-yun died today (29th June) after suffering 90% burns. She was pronounced dead at Taichung’s Chung Shan Hospital in central Taiwan at 0620 GMT (2:20pm Malaysian time). “Doctors pronounced Lee dead after her mother agreed to stop the treatment provided to her daughter,” an official at the Taichung city government’s health bureau told AFP.
She is the first fatality from the disaster.
Media reported that Lee’s 12-year-old brother was also hospitalised with 80% burns. Both were standing close to the stage when the fireball erupted, reports said.
The Star Online confirmed that a 3rd-year pharmaceutical undergraduate from Malaysia suffered 2nd degree burns on her hands and legs from the freak explosion – 23-year-old Lin Shi Li. Her mother, Choo Mee Mee, said that despite 54% of her daughter’s body was burnt, Lin remained conscious.
“The officers from her university contacted us by phone. They told us since she’s still young, she will most likely see a full recovery,” she said.
Lin is a pharmacy student at Taipei Medical University and is currently receiving treatment at the Taipei City Hospital. Choo and her brother are making plans to visit Lin in Taiwan this week while the Malaysian Foreign Ministry said that an officer from the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Centre in Taipei has visited Lin and provided the necessary consular assistance.
According to Malaysian CNA correspondent Sumisha Naidu, Malaysian student Wah Liang Jie also suffered burns on his arms, face and legs, and has been admitted for further treatment in Taiwan.
In other related news, 3 suspects were released on bail late Sunday (28th June) as prosecutors investigate them on charges of offences against public safety and negligence causing severe injuries.
The suspects include owner of Color Play Asia Lu Chung-chi, 41, who knelt in apology as he was bailed late Sunday. Hardware equipment technician Chiu Po-ming, 33, and special effects worker Liao Chun-ming, 39, were also released on bail. 2 others were released without bail, but are currently barred from leaving Taiwan. They could face 3 years in prison for those charges, but that could be raised to 5 years now that a victim has died.
General manager of the water park Chen Hui-ying said the venue had “never heard such an activity could be dangerous”. But the company that supplied the corn starch to Color Play Asia warned of its flammability.
Taiwon Food Industrial Co told AFP that Color Play Asia had purchased a total of three tonnes of corn starch in four separate deals this year. The company said the colour powder was “flammable under high temperatures, especially when its density is high”.
It added that warnings were printed on the bags of corn starch asking users to wear goggles, warning of flammability and banning its use in a closed space.
“We feel hurt for the young people. We’ve stopped selling and producing such powder in line with the government ban,” Chou Hui-fang, vice president of the company, told AFP.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were affected, and our hearts are with the family, friends, and loved ones of the victims. Here’s to super speedy recoveries for all of those who were injured in the incident.