Heavy dust, heat source may have caused ex­plo­sion, says of­fi­cial

The China Post - - LOCAL -

Some­time be­fore 8:30 p.m. last Satur­day, the crowd at a New Taipei party called Color Play Asia found they were stand­ing al­most an­kle deep in a layer of col­ored dust that had ac­cu­mu­lated in front of a per­for­mance stage.

Ap­par­ently no one thought it would be a prob­lem — un­til the dust ig­nited.

In the worst dis­as­ter of its kind in Tai­wan’s history, nearly 500 peo­ple — most of them in their teens or twen­ties — were en­veloped in an ex­pand­ing fire­ball that turned a drained pool at a wa­ter park in New Taipei into an inferno.

As of Mon­day morn­ing, 439 peo­ple re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized, 211 of them in in­ten­sive care units. One of the vic­tims, a 20-year-old high school grad­u­ate, died of her in­juries, doc­tors said.

As many of the vic­tims fought for their lives in hos­pi­tal, de­tails of the in­ci­dent con­tin­ued to emerge, in­di­cat­ing that it was a dis­as­ter wait­ing to hap­pen.

As much as three tons of fine corn dust had been pre­pared for use dur­ing the event, which was be­ing held for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, said Hou Yu-ih ( ) , deputy mayor of New Taipei. Each par­ty­goer paid an en­trance fee of NT$1,500 ( US$49) and was given three pack­ets of col­ored pow­der, ac­cord­ing to the Ap­ple Daily, a mass cir­cu­la­tion tabloid-style news­pa­per.

Quot­ing the rel­a­tives of an eye­wit­ness, the pa­per said the peo­ple right in front of the stage were stand­ing al­most an­kle deep in dust, which was lifted at ran­dom in­ter­vals by the park’s staff, us­ing air blow­ers con­nected to can­is­ters. The city’s deputy mayor said pre­lim­i­nary i nves­ti­ga­tion

a found that, in ad­di­tion to pow­der thrown by the par­ty­go­ers them­selves, the staff mem­bers used can­is­ters of car­bon diox­ide to blow dust to­ward the crowd.

Af­ter more and more dust filled the air, it was ig­nited close to one side of the stage prob­a­bly by a lighted cig­a­rette or another source of heat such as the light­ing, sound equip­ment or other ma­chin­ery, he said.

Other wit­nesses have said that smok­ing was per­mit­ted at the event, which was held out­doors in a drained pool at Formosa Fun Coast Wa­ter Park (

) in New Taipei City’s coastal dis­trict of Bali. There have been eye­wit­ness ac­counts of one staff mem­ber smok­ing while work­ing on­stage.

As the dust ex­ploded into a huge fire­ball, it was sure to cause se­ri­ous in­juries. The sit­u­a­tion was com­pounded by the fact that most of the par­ty­go­ers were wear­ing only swim­suits be­cause they were at a huge wa­ter park where the day­time tem­per­a­ture was hov­er­ing around 35 de­grees Cel­sius.

Up to 4,000 tick­ets were sold for the event, not in­clud­ing early­bird wpack­ages.

In the wake of the in­ci­dent, author­i­ties have shut down the wa­ter park and banned the use of fine pow­der at any other events un­til fur­ther no­tice.

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