The Ministry of Health and Welfare has activated its emergency response mechanism following the nation’s worst amusement park disaster, in which a fire broke out at New Taipei City’s Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park on Saturday night, leaving nearly 500 people injured.
“The ministry has activated an emergency medical case management system to allow hospitals to report information and conditions of patients they have treated,” Department of Medical Affairs Director Wang Tsung-hsi (王宗曦) said yesterday.
Wang said the agency has also requested the health bureaus in Taipei, New Taipei City, Keelung and Taoyuan — as well as all hospitals, burn wards and intensive care units in these cities — to prepare for more people in need of treatment.
Photo: Sam Yeh-AFP
Due to the potential need for skin grafts, the ministry has collaborated with the Taiwan Organ Registry and Sharing Center, the Taiwan Society of Plastic Surgery and other organizations specializing in burns to transport skin donations from the nation’s south, Wang said.
Wang made the remarks one day after the incident occurred on the main stage of the park at approximately 8:30pm on Saturday, when colored corn starch powders exploded at the party.
According to ministry data, a total of 498 people injured during the accident were rushed to 43 different hospitals for emergency treatment.
Photo: Wang Min-wei, Taipei Times
Of those, 202 sustained severe injuries, 157 suffered moderate injuries and 79 were mildly burned, with 60 others treated, the data showed.
“As of 1pm [yesterday], 419 people remained hospitalized, including 184 in intensive care units,” the ministry said.
Taipei Veterans General Hospital said 22 of the 43 people it treated were still in critical condition as of press time last night.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
“Eleven of them have been intubated and three sustained burns over nearly 90 percent of their bodies,” hospital deputy superintendent Hwang Shinn-jang (黃信彰) said, adding that the next 72 hours would be critical.
New Taipei City Fire Department Deputy Director Chen Chung-yueh (陳崇岳) said that the fire department is investigating whether the blasts were caused by a spark from overheating equipment or by lights used at the party, but did not rule out people smoking as the cause of the fire and the ensuing explosions.
“A fire investigation team inspected the scene of the accident again this morning [yesterday]. The park used a drained swimming pool as the main area for the party and a total of 28 powder spray guns were installed around the stage,” Chen said.
Photo: Sam Yeh -AFP
Chen added that it was possible the powder exploded without a spark if it had reached a certain density.
The Shilin District Prosecutors’ Office has seized the powder spray equipment and other evidence in an effort to discover the cause of the incident.
Five individuals were questioned by police on Saturday night, including the event’s organizer, Lu Chung-chi (呂忠吉), equipment provider Chiu Po-ming (邱柏銘), special effects engineer Liao Chun-ming (廖俊明) and two other staff responsible for spraying the powder.
They were referred to the prosecutors’ office for further investigation yesterday morning on suspicion of gross negligence resulting in severe injury and offenses against public safety.
Separately yesterday, Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said the Executive Yuan has banned the use of cornstarch powder at public events pending a safety evaluation and the drawing up of an act to govern the use of such substances.
“The Executive Yuan held an inter-ministerial meeting in the morning [yesterday] to discuss the handling of the accident and a task force has been established,” Mao said after visiting people injured by the blasts at National Taiwan University Hospital yesterday morning.
New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said he has ordered the park to close, while requesting government agencies to investigate the incident and mobilize all medical resources available to offer the best care and treatment possible.
Chu said compensation of NT$10,000 is to be offered to those severely injured and NT$5,000 to those who sustained less serious injuries, adding that he telephoned Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) — as well as the heads of Taipei’s and Taoyuan’s fire departments — after the accident to ask for their assistance.
“The park’s operations have been suspended while the government endeavors to determine the cause of the tragic event. There is no timetable for it being allowed to resume business,” Chu said on Saturday night.
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