TIME Taiwan

Cigarettes or Spark Suspected in Taiwan Fire That Burned 500

Taiwan Fire
AP—AP Police investigators inspect the stage area after an accidental explosion during a music concert at the Formosa Water Park in New Taipei City, Taiwan, June 28, 2015

"It's still not clear what happened, but there were a number of people smoking."

(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — Investigators in Taiwan were focusing Monday on the possibility that a cigarette butt or spark caused the blaze that burned more than 500 people at a weekend water park party when colored powder sprayed from the stage caught fire.

More than 400 people remained hospitalized, 200 in serious condition, city officials said. Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported one death: a 20-year-old with burns to 90 percent of her body who was taken off life support with her family’s consent.

Police recommended criminal charges against the organizer of Saturday’s party, as well as two technicians, at the Formosa Fun Coast theme park in suburban Taipei.

“It’s still not clear what happened, but there were a number of people smoking and the weather was warm,” New Taipei City news department head Lin Chieh-yu said. Temperatures around greater Taipei topped 36 degrees Celsius (96.8F) before the party.

The three tons of colored starch-based powder bought by the organizers from Tai Won, a seller in the island’s southern county of Yunlin, were flammable, said Chou Hui-fang, a representative of the seller. She said the buyer was informed about the risk of fire.

“Whether it’s corn starch or flour starch, this kind of stuff, no matter how long it’s been around, if it’s in dense quantities and if it’s hot, it can catch fire,” Chou said. She said her 4-year-old company has been questioned by police and health officials but was not considered at fault.

“We didn’t know what the buyers were going to do with it or how much they would use,” she said. “It might have been supplies for a whole year.”

Taiwan Premier Mao Chi-kuo on Sunday banned use of the powder at future private events. Colored powder is often thrown on revelers during the annual Holi celebrations in India and Nepal, a Hindu festival. The powder at Saturday’s party was made in Taiwan, Chou said.

The water park was ordered to close after the fire.

Taiwan police recommended charges of professional neglect and public endangerment for party organizer Lu Chung-chi, who was arrested but released on bail of 1 million Taiwan dollars (US$32,000) bail and restricted from leaving the island, a New Taipei City police spokesman said.

Local media photos showed Lu kneeling on the ground to apologize, pledging to take full responsibility.

Police also recommended charges for the stage hardware technician and the person responsible for shooting off the powder. Each was given bail of 300,000 Taiwan dollars. Officers questioned another two involved in the event but did not recommend charges, said Yan Bo-jen, news liaison with the Luzhou Precinct of New Taipei City Police Department.

Prosecutors have also seized the assets of the water park and of the party organizers, the city news official said.

The powder ignited along the ground, mainly burning people’s lower bodies, said Wang Wei-sheng, a liaison with the New Taipei City fire department command center.

Taiwan university student Liang Sheng-kai said flaming powder hit his legs, apparently catching fire after it was sprayed from a concert stage into the front row where he was standing.

With the park’s water features several hundred meters (yards) away, too far to douse the fire or ease burns, people screamed and panicked to find exits as balls of fire surged from the ground, he said. He said the right and left sides of the stage were blocked.

“It was very messy and a lot of people fell over or got knocked down,” said Liang, 20, who is staying in a Taipei hospital for burn treatment.

Four victims were from Hong Kong, two from mainland China and one each from Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, a New Taipei City news official said. Authorities are still checking on the nationalities of three other foreigners. More than 200 were students, Central News Agency said.

A total of 519 people were injured by the fire, according to a statement from the city government’s health bureau.

___

AP writer Louise Watt in Beijing contributed to this report.

TIME Taiwan

Hundreds Injured in Taiwan Water Park Fire

Taiwan park fire
EPA Taiwanese push a young man suffering from burns on his legs to an ambulance at the Formosa Fun Coast park in the Bali District of New Taipei City, northern Taiwan, June 27, 2015.

The fire's cause is under investigation

More than 200 people were injured in a fire that broke out at a water park in Taipei, Taiwan on Saturday.

The fire ignited in the midst of “colour play” party at the Formosa Water Park, which featured music and dancing. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but BBC reports it may have sparked when a colored powder being thrown on the audience burst into flame.

There were at least 215 people injured, with 83 of them suffering severe burns, BBC reports. There were about 1,000 people near a stage where the fire started.

The fire was brought under control.

[BBC]

TIME Behind the Photos

Behind TIME’s Cover With Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen

Photograph by Adam Ferguson for TIME

Photographer Adam Ferguson explains his approach

Tsai Ing-wen, who is running for president in Taiwan, is on the cover of this week’s edition of TIME Asia. Freelance photographer Adam Ferguson, who authored the cover portrait, takes us behind the scenes:

“The shoot followed a morning interview by TIME’s Emily Rauhala and Zoher Abdoolcarim in Taipei,” Ferguson tells TIME. “I was setting up a studio on location and I was nervous I wouldn’t get [a lot of] time, but Tsai was very relaxed and happy to work with me.”

Ferguson was allocated 20 minutes with Tsai, which he felt would be enough.

“It was my initial idea to light Tsai with a traditional butterfly beauty lighting set up,” he says, referring to the lighting style that creates a butterfly-shaped shadow under the subject’s nose.I thought [this style] was simple enough to allow her personality to speak rather than the lighting being too dominant.” But, as the shoot started, Ferguson thought it wasn’t working. “I really wasn’t happy with the results I was getting,” he says. “The portraits I made were two-dimensional and didn’t capture the political aspirations inherent to Tsai and her party, so after about 15 minutes I asked Tsai [for] a break.”

Ferguson had followed Tsai the previous day. “She had seen me dripping with sweat jostling with Taiwanese photographers trying to make a candid image of her traveling, so I think she recognized that I was serious about making an image that I was happy with and agreed to the extra time,” he says.

Ferguson chose a lighting technique that was more dramatic with harsher shadows. “It gave her face more shape, accentuated her features and in my opinion promoted a more complex reading of her,” he says. “I enjoy political portraiture because there is space to capture personalities in a way that is rawer than the visual tools used in the fashion or commercial world of imagery. I have deliberately not pandered to a visual language that accentuates youth. Our daily lives are already saturated with imagery like this, through advertising, and my intent was for this to be a strong character-driven portrait that speaks about aspiration more than beauty.”

The resulting portrait, which appeared on the cover of TIME’s Asia edition, has been the subject of intense debate in Taiwan, with some accusing the photographer of making Tsai look older than she is.

Ferguson is unfazed by the controversy. “With Tsai I was hoping to capture an expression that was serious, contemplative and strong—all emotions that I believed epitomized her current political aspirations,” he says. “I suspect people are surprised by a lighting style with high contrast because it is not the way subjects are lit in more conventional context.”

And, he adds, giving her face extra depth gives viewers more to look at — and, in this case, more to talk about.

Read TIME’s interview with Tsai Ing-wen.

Adam Ferguson is a freelance photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME South China Sea

U.S. Defense Secretary to Ask Vietnam to End Land Reclamation

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter (R) and Vietnam's Defence Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh (front L) review an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi on June 1, 2015.
Hoang Dinh Nam—AFP/Getty Images U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Vietnam's Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh review an honor guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi on June 1, 2015

The South China Sea has become a diplomatic sore spot in the region

(HAIPHONG, Vietnam) – U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday he will urge Vietnamese officials to give up their reclamation projects in the South China Sea, making a direct plea after earlier calling for all countries in the Asia-Pacific region to halt the construction of artificial islands.

China’s rapidly expanding building projects has raised tensions and caused concerns among the United States and its regional partners.

Speaking to reporters during a stop at a Vietnamese Navy base, Carter said that all the claimants in the South China Sea must halt their reclamation and any further militarization of the sites. Those would include Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan, but their projects are dwarfed by China’s building program on reefs and atolls, which now totals more than 2,000 acres.

China is vigorously defending the projects in the face of persistent criticism from U.S. leaders, who say that the building programs will not provide Beijing any additional sovereign land. The U.S. and others are concerned that China will use the artificial islands as military bases and to assert control over navigation in the South China Sea.

Carter also toured a Coast Guard ship a day before his scheduled meetings with Vietnamese leaders. Other topics expected to come up are maritime weapons sales

Carters’ comments come in the wake of disclosures that China had placed two motorized artillery vehicles on one of its reclamation sites. Officials have said the artillery has been moved.

This is Carter’s first trip to Vietnam as defense secretary, and the first time a U.S. defense secretary has visited a Vietnamese Navy base or toured a military ship.

Two years ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the former U.S. air and naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and went on board the USNS Richard E. Byrd, a cargo ship operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

Carter said he planned to talk with Vietnamese officials about ongoing efforts by the U.S. to provide maritime defensive weapons to the country.

Last October the U.S. partially lifted its ban on weapons sales to Vietnam to boost the country’s ability to defend itself in the South China Sea. Only the sale of lethal maritime security and surveillance capabilities are allowed on a case-by-case basis, including boats and air assets based on an evaluation of Vietnam’s needs. But to date no weapons have flowed to Vietnam.

U.S. Sen. John McCain said Saturday that the U.S. should gradually lift the weapons ban on Vietnam, amid heightened tensions with China over the reclamation projects.

China, Vietnam and other nations have conflicting claims over portions of the South China Sea. Both McCain and Carter attended an international security conference over the weekend in Singapore, where Carter urged the halt to reclamation projects by all in the region.

McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. should provide additional defensive weapons that could be used in case of a conflict with China. He added that the U.S. should continue its ban on weapons used for crowd control or to commit human rights abuses.

Carter said the U.S. will continue to discuss changes to the arms ban. He said the U.S. has some latitude to provide maritime weapons, including ships, now, but, “we’d obviously benefit from more latitude but we’d need legislative approval to do that” as well as endorsements from the administration.

TIME France

Thieves Stole More Than $5 Million Worth of Chanel Jewels in a Paris Smash-and-Grab

French police are hunting three perpetrators

A Taiwanese art collector was robbed Thursday of nearly $5.4 million worth of Chanel jewels near Paris, France when her taxi was traveling through a long tunnel between the city and Charles De Gaulle Airport that has become infamous for theft.

French police are hunting three perpetrators who smashed the car window and snatched the woman’s handbag before escaping.

It has not been confirmed if the thieves were aware of the jewelry in the woman’s handbag or if they targeted the taxi at random, but police did point out that the uniqueness of the jewels would make them difficult to sell without a developed network.

According to Agence France-Presse, the woman said the jewels were meant to be displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The museum has denied the claim.

Almost 1 mile (0.8 km) long, Landy Tunnel is the most common transit route taken to Paris from Charles De Gaulle Airport. Notable robberies include a 2010 smash-and-grab committed upon the daughter of the mayor of Kiev and a spectacular armed assault on a Saudi prince last August.

TIME Food & Drink

You Won’t Believe Where the World’s Best Whiskey Comes From

Taiwan Whisky Winner
Wally Santana—AP A visitor walks past casks at the Kavalan whiskey distillery in Yilan County, Taiwan

Sorry, Scotland. Nice try, Japan

Taiwan’s Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique is now officially the best single malt whiskey on earth, according to the World Whiskies Awards.

The contest’s judges described the malt as “surprisingly smooth on the palate” and added: “it’s like Bourbon infused milk chocolate.”

The spirit is produced at the King Car distillery in northeastern Taiwan’s Yilan County, where the whiskey is aged in American oak barrels that once stored white and red wines.

The distillery, which went operational just a decade ago, has been racking up a plethora of awards in recent years and getting nods from some of the world’s top single-malt connoisseurs. In 2012, the acclaimed guide Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named Kavalan’s Solist Fino Sherry Cask malt the “new whisky of the year.”

Read next: Calorie Count Coming Soon to a Can of Guinness Near You

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Internet

New Google Doodle Honors Instant-Noodle Inventor Momofuku Ando

Google

Peel off lid. Pour boiling water. Steep for three minutes. Stir well and serve.

Thursday marks the 105th birthday of Taiwanese-Japanese inventor Momofuku Ando, whose instant noodles revolutionized the food world, and Google is honoring this king of quick cuisine with a new Google Doodle.

As TIME wrote back in 2006, “In 1958, Momofuku Ando, an unassuming entrepreneur living in Osaka, created the instant noodle — and a continent has been feasting on his invention ever since.”

However, the road was not easy for the founder of Nissin Food Products. Ando struggled to find the right balance and create noodles that were tasty but did not become mush when boiled. The secret, learned from his wife, was to spray the noodles with chicken soup and then fry them in tempura oil.

The instant noodle, a dietary staple for every college student from Asia to America, had come to fruition.

Ando was born during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan in 1910, moved to Japan at the age of 23 became a Japanese citizen following World War II. He died in Osaka on Jan. 5, 2007, at the age of 96.

Read next: New Google Doodle Honors Inventor of Flat Map Gerardus Mercator

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME portfolio

The Best Pictures of the Week: Jan. 30 – Feb. 6

From New York’s deadly train crash and night surfing in the Mediterranean sea to China’s traditional eagle hunters and a Fifty Shades of Grey inspired “Fifty Shades of Cake” exhibition in England, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Taiwan

TransAsia Death Toll Hits 35 as Officials Point to Engine Failure

At least one of the engines failed just seconds into the flight

TransAsia Airways Flight 235 experienced engine failure shortly before it crashed in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, on Wednesday, says Thomas Wang, executive director of Taiwan’s Aviation Safety Council.

According to the Associated Press, Wang said that one of the engines failed 37 seconds after the flight became airborne. The other engine, based on a preliminary review of the flight-data recorder, may have been shut down by the pilots in a bid to restart them both. But it is still too early to draw firm conclusions.

In a distress call made by the pilot before the plane went down, he can be heard saying, “Mayday mayday, engine flameout.”

The news comes as TransAsia announced that the death toll had risen to 35, after search teams recovered more bodies from Taipei’s Keelung River.

Officials said 15 people were injured and eight, all Chinese nationals, were still missing, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Flight 235 clipped a bridge and crashed into the river shortly after takeoff from Songshan Airport on Wednesday. The plane lost communication with air-traffic control four minutes after takeoff. It was heading to the Kinmen islands and most of those on board were Chinese tourists.

[WSJ]

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