The suspected dust explosion at the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park in New Taipei City’s Bali District (八里) on Saturday evening, that injured nearly 500 people, mostly in their teens and 20s, has left many parents distraught and heartbroken.
The mother of 17-year-old Hsueh Ming-chuan (薛明娟) said her severely burned daughter was lying on an inflatable boat at the park when she found her, more than an hour after the explosion.
“All of her skin was gone. Her hands were shaking... and she kept calling for me,” the visibly distraught mother said.
Hsueh’s ordeal was shared by many who attended a party at the water park that night, when colored cornstarch that was sprayed into the crowd exploded, engulfing partygoers in a fireball.
The father of teenager Chu Li (朱利) broke down in tears as he described his daughter’s injuries.
“She is in the intensive care unit at the moment. She suffered third-degree burns on more than 80 percent of her body,” he said. “Her whole body is ‘rotten’ and she is disfigured. She just turned 18.”
Among the injured is an 18-year-old surnamed Chen (陳), who is being treated at Saint Paul’s Hospital in Taoyuan.
Chen’s mother said he dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player, adding that the dream could now be dashed due to burns on more than 60 percent of his body, most on his extremities.
Chen is still recovering in the hospital’s intensive care unit and the next three days would be critical, the hospital said, adding that he could have difficulty walking once he recovers.
Also in an intensive care unit is a second-year student at Taipei’s Yu Da School of Commerce and Home Economics, Chen Wan-hsuan (陳宛萱).
Lee Tsung-hsun (李宗勳), of China Medical University Hospital’s department of orthopedic surgery, said had she received second and third-degree burns on more than 70 percent of her body, with her trachea slightly scalded, adding that the majority of the burns were on her torso and limbs.
An aspiring model, Chen Wan-hsuan had already received offers of contracts, her father said, adding that he hoped his presence at the hospital would help his daughter find a reason to live as he “cannot imagine what sort of future she is going to have.”
Hospital staff said that Chen Wan-hsuan’s condition was still critical and the hospital would assess her situation again if she were able to tough out the next three days.
Horrifying amateur video footage showed crowds of young revelers, some dressed in swimwear, dancing in front of a stage and cheering as clouds of green and yellow powder covered them, only for their joy to turn to terror when the powder suddenly erupted into flames, engulfing them in an inferno as they ran screaming for their lives.
Witnesses described the scene at the water park as “hell” when the fireball ripped through the crowd.
“Everyone was screaming and there was blood everywhere. The waterway [used for inflatable boat rides] was filled with blood because everyone was dipping themselves in it,” as they attempted to soothe their burns, said a young man who witnessed the tragedy.
“I saw lots of people whose skin was gone,” another witness said.
“It started on the left side of the stage. At the beginning, I thought it was part of the special effects, but then I realized there was something wrong when people started screaming and running,” a male witness said.
Ambulances struggled to reach the scene and victims were carried away on rubber rings and inflatable dinghies as friends desperately tried to get them help.
Bystanders poured bottles of water on the scorched skin of the injured and trails of bloody footprints could be seen leading away from the stage.
Additional reporting by Lin Chin and Tsai Chih-ming
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