Asia

Taiwan water park inferno: Reveller with 90% burns dies

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Media captionLiang Sheng-Kai: "I saw the flames burning my legs"

A woman who was injured after a fire tore through the crowds at an amusement park in Taiwan has died, officials say.

Doctors decided - with family support - to turn off the life support ventilator of 20-year-old Lee Pei-yu on Monday.

She suffered second-degree burns over 90% of her body and is the first fatality from the disaster. About 500 people were injured in the blaze.

Saturday's fire started when coloured powder sprayed from the stage onto the audience near Taipei suddenly ignited.

At least 200 people remain in hospital in a critical condition, including the woman's 12-year-old brother. Eight patients are reported by local media to have life-threatening injuries. More than 1,000 people were near the stage at the time.

Screaming for their lives

It is thought that the coloured, flammable powder - used to create a party atmosphere - was sprayed into the crowd and then set alight either by cigarette embers, a lighter, or electrical sparks, officials say.

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Image caption Survivors have spoken of a "hellish" scene at the site of the fire
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Officials say that the powder ignited along the ground, mainly burning people's lower bodies
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Police investigating the cause of the blaze have seized the assets of the water park and of the party organisers

Amateur video footage showed young revellers dancing in front of a stage and cheering as clouds of green and yellow powder covered them.

But the party atmosphere descended into terror when the powder abruptly burst into flames engulfing them in an inferno as they ran screaming for their lives.

The organisers have been questioned about the disaster and the authorities have banned the use of coloured powder at events while its safety is assessed. The water park itself remains closed.

"It's still not clear what happened, but there were a number of people smoking and the weather was warm," New Taipei City news department head Lin Chieh-yu was quoted by the AP news agency as saying.

Temperatures around greater Taipei topped 36C (96.8 F) before the party.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The blaze began so quickly that many partygoers had no time to escape

The seller who provided the powder told AP that the buyer was warned about the risk of fire.

Police say that party organiser Lu Chung-chi and two technicians were arrested but released on bail. They have been ordered not to leave the island and are likely to face charges of professional neglect and public endangerment.

The Taiwan News website said Mr Lu had apologised for what had happened and pledged to take responsibility for it.

The BBC's Cindy Sui in Taipei says that video shot by a eyewitness at the scene showed the crowd immersed in the thick powder with no time to escape.

"We saw a lot of people whose skin had been seriously burned. It was just like hell," a witness said.

The incident occurred at about 20:30 (12:30 GMT) on Saturday.

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