2015 New Taipei water park fire
|Date||27 June 2015|
|Venue||A drained swimming pool at Formosa Fun Coast|
|Location||Bali, New Taipei, Taiwan|
On 27 June 2015, a dust fire occurred at Formosa Fun Coast, a water park in Bali, New Taipei, Taiwan. Staff of an outdoor "colour powder party" sprayed clouds of corn starch towards the participants, which ignited. The fire lasted 40 seconds and burned 508 people, killing 15 and leaving 199 in critical condition.
Initially, only patches of airborne corn starch caught fire and extinguished almost instantly, but the staff sprayed carbon-dioxide fire extinguishers towards the participants, which, compounded by the running of the participants, dispersed the airborne corn starch into multiple dust clouds, responsible for most of the burning. The dust fire was widely misreported to have been an explosion.
The "Colour Play Asia" party was inspired by the colored powder used in the Hindu religious festival "Holi", also called "festival of colours", which is celebrated in India, Nepal, and other countries with large Hindu populations. In August 2013, the first Taiwanese colour party took place in Sizihwan, Kaohsiung City. It was organized by the same event company that organized "Colour Play Asia".
On 27 June 2015, the "Color Play Asia" party was held at the Formosa Fun Coast water park. Party-goers were singing and dancing on the stage, which holds up to 1,000. Other party-goers danced in a drained pool nearby.
The concert organizers deployed colored corn starch powder in the festivities. The method of powder application at the concert created "an extremely dense dust cloud over the stage and its immediate vicinity", people near the stage were standing "almost ankle-deep" in colored corn starch powder, and the powder was repeatedly suspended into the air using air blowers as well as compressed gas canisters.
At about 20:30, a large deflagration occurred when a cloud of colored powder ignited after being discharged from the stage onto a crowd of 1,000 people during a concert. Some of the crowd breathed in the powder, causing respiratory problems. As recorded in an amateur video by an audience member, a massive fireball suddenly engulfed the stage. The powder caught fire along the ground, resulting in burns mainly to victims' limbs and torsos. According to the authorities, the fire was quickly extinguished. The rescue included help from army vehicles and soldiers, along with medical services. Many people were taken to hospitals via taxis due to the lack of ambulances in the area.
Injuries and fatalities
The injured were treated in over 50 hospitals across Taiwan. As of 29 November 2015, 15 of the 497 injured had died, 44 victims remained hospitalized, and 11 were being treated at intensive care wards, while fifty-seven others were discharged from hospitals after treatment. Most of the injured were tertiary students in their twenties and late teens who had just started their summer vacation. An earlier estimate of 519 injured was due to double-counting of patients that were transferred between hospitals.
Many victims were lightly clad because of hot weather (36.6 °C (97.9 °F)) and the water park venue, and suffered burns over large portions of their bodies. Some victims suffered burns to 80–90% of their skin.
Four foreigners injured in the event were flown home via International SOS flights for follow-up medical treatment on 29 June: two to Hong Kong (Queen Mary Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital), one to Shanghai (Ruijin Hospital) and one to Singapore (Singapore General Hospital).
New Taipei City's mayor Eric Chu ordered an immediate shutdown of the water park pending an investigation. The man responsible for the event was detained by police for investigation. On 28 June, Taiwan Premier Mao Chi-kuo banned the use of colored powders at private events until the investigation is concluded and the powder can be considered safe.
The event's organizer and hardware engineer were questioned and then given bail on the condition that they not leave the country. Lu Chung-chi apologized for the explosion on 28 June. On 28 June a spokesman for (mainland) China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Ma Xiaoguang, expressed sympathy for the victims and hoped they all received timely and appropriate treatment.
On 30 June Taiwan's Organ Registry and Sharing Center called for urgent donations of cadaver skin, since there were just 115 rolls left in the country's cadaver skin stocks. According to Chairman Lee Po-chang (李伯璋; Lǐ Bózhāng), cadaver skin is more effective in blocking burn wounds from contamination sources and promoting skin regeneration than hog skin or synthetic skin.
According to officials, the Ministry of Health and Welfare collaborated with the New Taipei City Public Health Department and made an announcement that all medical expenses of the burn patients from 27 June to 30 September will be covered by the National Health Insurance Administration and the National Health Insurance Program.
On 2 July, a spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office said it was ready to provide medical assistance to help treat the hundreds of people injured in the explosion. On 3 July, Taiwanese Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang said he was grateful for China's offer to provide medical assistance, including donations of cadaver skin to Taiwan, but it should be first confirmed that the skin was not from executed prisoners.
Investigators raised the question of whether the powder was ignited by a cigarette or spark; the supplier of the flammable, starch-based powder said "if it's in dense quantities and if it's hot, it can catch fire". Organizers had purchased three tons of the powder, and wrote on their Facebook page that it consisted of cornstarch and food coloring. The powder was sprayed from the stage onto concert-goers "at high velocity". The vice president of Tai Won Food Industrial Co, which makes the powder, says that there are warnings on the packages not to use them in closed spaces or under high temperatures. The New Taipei City news department head stated: "It's still not clear what happened, but there were a number of people smoking and the weather was warm."
WuFeng University fire science department instructor and Taichung Harbor Fire Department deputy captain Lu Shou-chien commented in a letter to the Chinese-language United Daily News that the event organizers had set up necessary conditions for a disaster, and had not used water sprays which would have reduced the risk of ignition. Smoking was permitted at the event, and approximately 40 cigarette butts were found afterwards.
In October 2015, the committee set up by the New Taipei City government to oversee monetary donations related to the explosion announced plans to distribute the collected funds. Survivors were to receive between NT$65,000 and NT$6.5 million, depending on the severity of injuries sustained in the dust explosion. The families of the twelve people who had died were compensated NT$8.25 million.
On 16 October 2015, Shilin District prosecutors charged the event organizer, Lu Chung-chi, with negligence during the disaster; owners of the park were not indicted. Lu was found guilty of the charges in April 2016. In 2018, Lu was sentenced to five years in prison. In June 2016, the Supreme Court authorized the seizure of NT$507 million in assets from the park's senior administration. The National Health Insurance Administration also sought compensation worth NT$436 million from event organizers in court, claiming that the medical cost incurred by the NHIA totaled NT$765 million.
After the accident, the government has adopted several emergency-related measures, such as the easing of the requirements for National Health Insurance coverage for burn victims, and importing large amount of artificial and cadaver skin.
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- Media related to Formosa Fun Coast Explosion at Wikimedia Commons