Organisers of a party at an amusement park in Taiwan have been detained for questioning after a fire suddenly tore through the crowds, injuring hundreds.
The fire started when coloured powder discharged from the stage onto the audience ignited. The number of people injured has been revised down by the authorities from an earlier figure of 524 to 498. Footage showed people panicking and screaming, and inflatable water toys used as stretchers.
Some 202 injured remain in serious condition, health officials said. Officials said many of the victims appeared to be in their 20s or younger. Some of them breathed in the powder, causing respiratory problems.
The water park outside the capital Taipei has been closed, and so-called colour parties have been banned while an investigation into what caused the inferno proceeds.
Skin ‘gone’. Event manager Lu Chung-chi and several staff members were detained by police on Sunday and are 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.
Footage of the incident shows a party in full swing when fire suddenly erupts.
It was “hell”, a male student who sustained minor injuries said, according to AFP news agency.
“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 was quickly brought under control.
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, says the BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei.
The Public Health Department of the New Taipei city government said late on Sunday that the number of injured had been revised down because some people were counted twice after being transferred from one hospital to another.
Most of the injured are Taiwanese nationals, seven are from China and six from other countries.
The incident occurred at about 20:30 (12:30 GMT) on Saturday. More than 1,000 people were near the stage at the time.
Many people flocked to water parks on Saturday as temperatures reached 36.6C (98F) in Taipei and as high as 38C in other parts of Taiwan.
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, our correspondent says.
A fire earlier this year killed six firefighters, prompting orders to rectify illegally constructed buildings and upgrade firefighters’ equipment and training.