An explosion at a water park in New Taipei — Taiwan’s most populous city — has injured almost 500 people, 183 of whom were sent to intensive care units, according to CNN.
“The fire came too fast and nobody was able to run,” said 19-year-old witness Huang Guan Zhang. “Everybody was burned. … Nobody could save others and people suffered severe burns.”
Footage from the incident showed a massive fireball suddenly engulfing the water park’s stage, followed by hordes of screaming people running for their lives through the blaze. Some began to use large, inflated inner tubes as stretchers to help get those who were injured in the fire out safely.
Declaring it the “worst incident of mass injury (ever) in New Taipei,” Mayor Eric Chu called for ambulance support from the neighboring cities of Taipei, Taoyuan, and Keelung. Taiwanese defense military spokesperson Luo Shao-he also said the country’s military hospitals in the north were ready to treat patients.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that “the fire was quickly brought under control,” but not before there were extensive casualties.
The flames erupted when an unknown substance exploded in midair over a stage. However, it’s suspected to be caused by a flammable powder, as the explosion occurred during a “Color Play Asia” party put on by a separate marketing company that had leased out the park’s space.
Such explosive incidents are not as uncommon as one might suspect. A number of powders and dusts are actually combustible. In the United States, there have been 57 explosions caused by combustible dust between 2009 and 2013, which left 26 dead, and another 129 injured.
“We are very regretful (for) this accident that caused injuries to many victims,” said a statement from the water park. “The most urgent matter currently for us is to handle and assist with … victims on the scene and work comprehensively with the New Taipei Fire Department.”
Fortunately, no fatalities had been reported the following day, and the total number of those injured had dropped to 498, as New Taipei’s Public Health Department reported some victims having been counted twice.