The Taiwan water park explosion that injured anywhere from 200 to 524 people is believed to have been caused by a colored powder used for special effects. The powder was likely ignited by sparks from machinery, but could also have been caused by the heat of the lights used. Video of the disaster showed a thick cloud of colored dust that suddenly ignited into a fireball.
At the time, a company that had leased area in the park was carrying on a “Color Play Asia” party, which included music. The powder that ignited was intended to be thrown on the guests in imitation of the Hindu festival of color Holi. Powder thrown from the stage erupted into a fireball that burned along the ground. An estimated 1,000 people were at the celebration. Inner tubes and rafts were used to help carry the victims to safety. 183 victims were taken to intensive care with severe burns. The water park explosion is believed to be the worst incident of mass injury in Taipei.
The water park explosion occurred in some of the worst heat that Taipei has experienced in years, with temperatures averaging over 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The colored powder is believed to be corn starch, which is combustible at high temperatures. It is also a respiratory irritant, which may have contributed to the injuries suffered by party-goers.
The police confirmed they were investigating two park workers as well as the on-site manager and two technicians. They are not believed to have intentionally started the fire, but may have contributed to it through negligence. All of them have been released on bail and are barred from leaving the country. The precise charges in regards to the water park explosion are not known at this time. The use of colored powders is currently banned from all public events in Taiwan.
Dust explosions such as the one caused by the powder are rare and usually occur in factory settings; the last major dust explosion was in 2008, when an Imperial Sugar facility was rocked by fire and explosions believed to have been caused by floating sugar dust. Fourteen people were killed and 42 injured. The incident, like the Taiwan water park explosion, was deemed accidental, but the facility was cited for not conforming to OSHA standards. The silos that stored the sugar were improperly constructed. No criminal charges were filed, but many victims and their families filed suit.
The water park remains closed.
[Image via WQAD]