Color party injured count rises to 498

By Yuan-Ming Chiao ,The China Post

As the number of injured in yesterday’s colored powder fire disaster in New Taipei rose to 498, government officials banned the event organizer from leaving the country and focused on determining the cause of the disaster. According to health officials, more than 200 are suffering from severe injuries.

The incident occurred at approximately 8:40 p.m. Saturday in New Taipei’s Bali District, where a fire broke out among a packed crowd of hundreds, many of them young students and teachers. The immediate cause of the disaster is still under investigation.

Earlier, prosecutors from New Taipei’s Bali District held event organizer Lu Chung-chi (�f���N) for questioning. He was later released after posting NT$1 million bail, though he must periodically report to police and is barred from leaving the country pending investigation. Police also released Chiu Po-ming, the technician at the company headed by Lu on NT$300,000 bail. Chiu is also barred from leaving Taiwan. After being released on bail, Lu, while clasping his hands together also knelt on his knees and apologized to victims while answering questions from reporters. He stated that his mind was in a ��state of chaos,�� but that he would take responsibility. President Ma Ying-jeou who visited burn victims at Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday afternoon said that the government will focus all efforts on medical relief for victims, as well as on determining the parties responsible for the disaster while assisting those affected and their families in receiving compensation. New Taipei City is creating an interdepartmental task force to deal with medical treatment, disaster investigation and compensation. The president stated that Premier Mao Chi-kuo (���v��) will be instituting an immediate ban on such events.

Over half of the victims are being treated at 15 separate hospitals located throughout Taipei City. The city’s Department of Health is urging all residents to refrain from diverting much needed emergency hospital resources to non-urgent cases. City officials from the Department of Social Welfare have already set up posts in hospitals and are distributing consolation money to victims’ families. New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu (���߭�) has coordinated with police and fire officials in neighboring Taipei and Taoyuan City for additional resources.

Tallies by government officials indicated that nine burn victims are foreign passport holders, including revelers from Japan, Europe, Malaysia and Singapore. The Mainland Affairs Council confirmed later that five of the injured are from Hong Kong and two are mainland Chinese students.

Those interested in donating medical supplies that are in critical demand, including medical dressings, surgical gloves, burn ointments and gauze should call (02)-2258-1753.