The fire was sparked by an accidental explosion of a coloured theatrical powder thrown from the stage in front of about 1,000 people, the fire agency and local media said. The powder for the one-time event called “Colour Play Asia” ignited along the ground, mainly burning people’s lower bodies, said Wang Wei-sheng, of the New Taipei City fire department command centre.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported witnesses as saying the fire at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City spread quickly after powder was blown into the air.
Taiwan premier Mao Chih-kuo announced a ban yesterday on parties that use flammable coloured powder.
A total of 516 people were reported to have burn injuries, Mr Wang said.
The official injury toll had risen from slightly more than 200 at midnight, because about 300 people had made their own way to hospitals. Eight people had life-threatening injuries, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
The victims included four mainland Chinese and two foreigners. An 18-year-old from Taiwan was burned on 90 per cent of her body. Video showed rescue workers and bystanders carrying burned and injured people on their backs, in inflatable boats and on stretchers to get medical treatment.
Event manager Lu Chung-chi and several staff members were detained by police and were yesterday being questioned by prosecutors.
Mr Lu was pictured in the Taiwan News with handcuffs on and his hands in a prayer position. The news site said he had apologised for what had happened and pledged to take responsibility for it.
Investigators were collecting evidence from the concert arena yesterday morning.
It was “hell”, a male student who sustained minor injuries said.
“There was blood everywhere, including in the pool where lots of the injured were soaking themselves for relief from the pain.”
His girlfriend added: “I saw lots of people whose skin was gone.”
The fire department said the powder, used to create a party atmosphere, may have ignited due to the heat of the lights on the stage, or from sparks from machinery.
The substance is also used in other countries. It is made of dried corn and can be highly flammable.
Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou visited some of the victims in hospital, yesterday.
Taiwan has suffered a series of deadly fires in the past couple of years due partly to poor enforcement of building and fire safety codes and illegal construction. A fire earlier this year killed six firefighters.