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Fire injures hundreds at Taiwan Color Play Asia party

An explosion and fire at a water park have injured several hundred people in Taipei, Taiwan. The blaze erupted after a flammable powder ignited in midair over a stage at the park, Taiwan's Central News Agency reported.

An explosion at a water park outside the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, injured hundreds of people on Saturday, about 100 of them seriously, after colored powder sprayed into the audience ignited, officials said. Footage on the Apple Daily newspaper website showed crowds dancing as music played and clouds of powder sprayed before turning into a ball of fire that tore through the roughly 1,000 spectators.

"It started on the left side of the stage," a man told the local news channel CTI. "At the beginning I thought it was part of the special effects of the party, but then I realized there was something wrong and people started screaming and running."

Taiwan's Central News Agency reported that the explosion had occurred at 8:30 p.m. (1230 UTC) Saturday at Formosa Fun Coast. Emergency services quickly brought the fire under control, but not before it had injured hundreds, CNA reported.

'Sad and regretful'

According to the news agency, the Health and Welfare Ministry reported that 21 hospitals had taken in 349 patients, with some suffering respiratory damage and burns to 40 percent of their bodies.

International broadcasters have reported upwards of 450 people injured. Bystanders poured bottles of water on the scorched skin of the victims still at the scene.

"We feel sad and regretful about the accident," New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu said, calling the incident the city's largest catastrophe ever and adding that officials had called in extra doctors to help treat the victims. "I've ordered the park to shut down immediately and be placed under a rigorous investigation," Chu added.

Police have questioned organizers of the Color Play Asia party and reportedly detained one man.

mkg/bk (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)