Party organizer charged over Taiwan deadly water park explosion

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Taipei (dpa) – Prosecutors charged the organizer of a Taiwan dance party where a dozen people were killed after coloured powder caught fire in June.

Coloured cornstarch powder pumped into the air caught fire at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei on June 27, leaving hundreds with burn injuries, several fatally.

Event organizer Lu Chung-chi was charged Friday with professional negligence causing death and injury.

He allegedly failed to inform staff members, water park managers, or partygoers of the danger the powder could pose, Shilin district prosecutors’ spokesman Chen Hsi-Chu told a news conference.

“The negligence has caused serious injuries. We ask the judge to impose a stiff punishment,” Chen said in the conference broadcast online Friday.

The explosion happened when some of the powder came into contact with a powerful light on the stage, Chen told dpa later.

“We’ve taken into account investigation reports from National Fire Agency and New Taipei City,” Chen said by phone.

The light was hotter than 400 degrees Celsius, a report by New Taipei City government found in August, with the ignition point of the powder around 430 degrees.

Chen said the accident injured about 500 people, including 16 foreigners from Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, the United States, South Africa, Macau, Hong Kong and China.

As of October 15, 71 people were still in hospital. Among them, 21 remain under intensive care, including 10 in critical condition, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Chang Chih-ying, the mother of an injured partygoer, told dpa Friday that she and some other victims and families had been angry at prosecutors’ not indicting managers of the water park.

Lu is the only person to be charged so far.

“How could it be possible that the park has no responsibility at all? My son is so mad, too,” Chang told dpa in a telephone interview.

Sean Chang, 25, suffered third-degree burns to 50 per cent of his body. Victims said roads inside the park were too narrow for ambulances. Some burn victims were removed by emergency workers with stretchers, others on inflatables designed for bathing.

It took Sean Chang three hours to reach hospital, where he stayed until September 10.

Chen told dpa one reason the park’s managers were not indicted was “that the fire accident was quickly put out within 40 seconds.”

According to the prosecutors’ office, the park passed a fire safety check one day before the accident.

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