If there’s one place you’d expect to be safe from a fire, you’d probably a water park to be that place.
But in Taiwan last week, this wasn’t the case. A fire broke out on the last weekend of June during a water park party, and it ended up burning 498 people and killing one attendee. When investigators talked to the media on June 29, it was reported that more than 400 people were still hospitalized and being treated for the burns, including 202 people who were in critical condition and eight people with life-threatening conditions.
Business Insider reported that the sole victim of the fire, a 20-year-old woman who had burns covering 90% of her body, was taken off life support with her family’s consent.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Formosa Fun Coast water park is located in suburban Taipei, which hit temperatures over 96 degrees F (36 C) before the party began.
Organizers of the event brought three tons of colored starch-based powder, similar to the colored powder thrown on attendees during the Hindu festival of Holi in Nepal and India.
The powder used at the recent Taiwan party was reportedly made and sold within the country, even though Taiwan Premier Mao Chi-kuo previously banned the use of the powder at private events — being a starch-based powder, it’s highly flammable and authorities recognized that it could pose a health threat.
After the powder was shot into the crowd, investigators believe that a cigarette butt on the ground caused a small amount to catch fire, prompting the ground to ignite, and attendees state that they remember running away from the stage as “balls of fire surged from the ground.” Despite being a water park, the main event was held far enough away from the water that it was not possible to douse the flames using the water already in the park.
Even without searing temperatures and flammable powder, improperly discarded cigarette butts are the leading cause of fire-related fatalities.
Currently, local police have charged two people involved at the party — the stage hardware technician and another person who shot off the powder into the crowd — and both were held pending bail of 300,000 Taiwanese dollars.