June 29, 2015

"Investigators say they believe that colored powder sprayed over a crowd at [a water park] event ignited, setting off a fireball that burned 499 people."

"... The event organizers said on their Facebook page that they used a mixture of cornstarch and food coloring to make the powder. They prepared as much as three tons of it, which may have been ignited by a cigarette, lighting, sound equipment or another electrical device, the Central News Agency of Taiwan quoted the deputy mayor of New Taipei, Hou Yu-ih, as saying."

One woman has died and 200 are still in intensive care.

ADDED: More here (with photos):
The one-day event, with a capacity of 4,000 people, was billed as the biggest “color party” in Asia and was meant to run from 1 p.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday.... On Sunday, Color Play Asia’s Facebook page was filled with comments expressing outrage that the event could have so quickly turned into an inferno.

38 comments:

LarsPorsena said...

Cornstarch in air is explosive. Got to have the right mixture for the volume.
It's the same principle as grain silo explosions.

MayBee said...

Tragic.

These color events are becoming a huge thing, and I just don't get the fun.

Amy said...

I have never gotten it either. Risk of explosion aside, I can't believe it is healthy to inhale.

Jason said...

Was WKRP on the scene?

The Drill SGT said...

exactly Lars

exhelodrvr1 said...

Wheat dust, fine sawdust, etc. can be very explosive when suspended in air.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There's some TV commercial where young, healthy-looking people are having the time of their lives throwing handfuls of colored powder at one another in celebration.

Maybe it's for some health insurance provider or maybe some hospital group.

I really don't know. I try not to notice.

richlb said...

Heck, Mr. Wizard taught me that this was a bad idea. Don't they have Nickelodeon reruns over there?

Wilbur said...

I witnessed a huge grain elevator explode one Friday evening in Danville, Ill.
A fireball 1000 feet into the air is something you don't easily forget.

I've never heard of a color event until now. Can someone describe it?

Larry J said...

exhelodrvr1 said...
Wheat dust, fine sawdust, etc. can be very explosive when suspended in air.


The surface area to volume ratio of dust is very high, meaning it can burn very quickly. Grain dust, coal dust, even some metal dust can explode under the right conditions. How could they not know that?

traditionalguy said...

These are the dudes invented gun powder, but they have become temporarily insane.

pdug said...

If I were a social justice warrior I would point out that dousing people in colored powder is part of a hindu festivals of holi, and if these non-hindu Asians weren't culturally appropriating something they didn't invent, nobody would have died.

Cultural appropriation kills, people.

Magson said...

There's an annual Indian festival where they throw colored chalk and tourists are told that it might not be a good idea to go outside on that day unless they're there for the thing and intend to get colored chalk tossed on them all day.....

I don't recall the specifics of it, but I know the big Krishna temple in Utah does it ever year. Looks like this: https://www.google.com/search?q=utah+color+festival&safe=off&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=j3iRVYbONoK3oQTYqa-YCQ&ved=0CCoQsAQ

Rusty said...

Fuel. Oxygen. Source of ignition.

Rockport Conservative said...

I read on another blog it was colored because it was a gay pride event. I do not know if that is true but it does seem to make a little sense of it.

Jason said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2MfsMmki5U

All is proceeding as The Prophets have foretold.

clint said...

This seems... foreseeable.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Larry J,
"How could they not know that?"

Natural law doesn't apply to a lot of people.

YoungHegelian said...

Come to think of it, is there any organic (in the chemical sense) powder that under the right circumstances of the correct proportion of air to powder & an ignition source, won't go kaboom?

Chicklit, you Mr. Chemistry. Care to weigh in? Any other chemists or members of a relevant discipline?

LCB said...

Paper mills use corn starch in liquid form to coat paper so ink doesn't bleed through. Same issue as with corn silos...and yes, we had a fire at the paper mill where I worked. Wasn't an explosion...or maybe it was just a little explosion. In any case, spilled corn starch powder began to burn and it was hard to put it out.

jimbino said...

I had a grade-school demonstration of the power of a corn-starch explosion. This is what we get by ignoring science instruction in favor of touchy-feely courses. The way to maintain our POTUS, COTUS and SCOTUS is to keep the Amerikan people as dumb as possible.

YoungHegelian said...

@jimbino,

This is what we get by ignoring science instruction in favor of touchy-feely courses.

I was unaware that the Taiwanese had gone all in for touchy-feely education, and even more unaware that they had much to say about the makeup of the American government.

That's what I like about the Althouse forum --- I learn something new & genuinely different every day!

The Drill SGT said...

YoungHegelian said...
Come to think of it, is there any organic (in the chemical sense) powder that under the right circumstances of the correct proportion of air to powder & an ignition source, won't go kaboom?


add metals, and most every mixture of element and oxidizer, beyond the Noble gasses...

The ignition mechanism may need to be a bit hotter, but metals of course burn explosively if ground small enough and heated hot enough.

buwaya said...

They were copying Holi. I have gotten "colored". Its messy but clean fun. This is a fad that deserves some popularity.

One never hears about explosions at Holi though.
This case may be because of something to do with mechanized dispersion, or maybe the substance used. Holi as I know it the powder is thrown by hand.

virgil xenophon said...

Akin to a fuel-air bomb. They bombed themselves! BWAHAHAHAHA!

exhelodrvr1 said...

Drill Sgt,
"but metals of course burn explosively if ground small enough and heated hot enough."

Nothing like a good magnesium fire!

Harold said...

I know dust is explosive from HS classes. I know from Navy classes that dust is far more of an explosive hazard then oil vapors. But since people see dust everyday, they don't worry about it. Unless they work around silos or cement factories or other areas where the hazard is mentioned- and mentioned- and warned about. Since people don't smell oil vapor everyday, they immediately go on alert and worry about it if they do.

499 injured , though. That's a HUGE fireball.

David said...

Get thee to a cement factory, concert promoters.

David said...

Rockport Conservative said...
I read on another blog it was colored because it was a gay pride event. I do not know if that is true but it does seem to make a little sense of it.


Seems correct, since we all know that straight people don't like color.

lgv said...

We used to blend corn starch and colorant with a mill. Then added to bath salts, tumbled and drummed off. Also made baby powders. All equipment was explosion proof. The rooms were designed to blow out rather than in.

Quaestor said...

Come to think of it, is there any organic (in the chemical sense) powder that under the right circumstances of the correct proportion of air to powder & an ignition source, won't go kaboom?

Organics that go kaboom are the foundation of our civilization. Except for the dreaded strong nuclear force everything runs on organics undergoing a slowmo kaboom. (I don't count wind and solar since so far they haven't shown a sustained ability to produce more watts than they consume.) Coal dust can make an epic kaboom, however corn starch is capable of some real wrath-o-god, Gomorrah-flattening blasts. The Mythbusters have demonstrated this several times. If you're a Martian in search of an Earth-shattering kaboom, you should consider corn starch -- it's incredibly fine, incredibly dry, and forms a wondrous aerosol. That Taiwan "color event" was probably less deadly than it might have been but for the dyes, which probably inhibited combustion enough to make a really hot fire as opposed to an Earth-shattering kaboom which instead of burning people would have torn them limb from limb.

Corn starch is related to cellulose, which is itself just another starch. We're familiar with cellulose in one of its most ubiquitous forms -- wood, and we all know who nicely wood burns. Another form is nitrocellulose, i.e. guncotton, which is just nitrated starch. That stuff can spontaneously kaboom at room temperature. What the nitration does is to supply the starch with a supply of oxygen really close at hand to fuel a nice kaboom. NO3 has two oxygen atoms with idle and surly valence electrons just looking for trouble, source of ignition helpful but not necessary. Corn starch doesn't have its own oxidizer, but when formed into an aerosol -- whoa Nellie!

Quaestor said...

Althouse should trot out that stupid tag of hers (It's been stabled too long and is probably champing at the bit.) and apply it to this story.

Terry said...

Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown
I can't believe no one wrote that yet.

Rusty said...

exhelodrvr1 said...
Drill Sgt,
"but metals of course burn explosively if ground small enough and heated hot enough."

Nothing like a good magnesium fire!


Powdered aluminum mixed with powdered rust(iron) = thermite

Try this experiment;
You will need a drinking straw
some flour, or starch, or talcum powder
A lit candle.

Put a small amount of powder in the straw and holding it close to but not into the flame, gently blow.
Do this someplace you won't set the house on fire.

It's OK to throw oily rags in the garbage as long as they're soiled with petroleum based oils.
Organic oils like linseed or turpentine, etc will spontaneously combust.

Rusty said...

Get yerself a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer










Nah. Somebody here would be just dumb enough to try it.

Quaestor said...

Try this experiment;
You will need a drinking straw
some flour, or starch, or talcum powder
A lit candle.


What do you mean by "talcum powder"? Talc is a hydrated magnesium silicate, which isn't particularly combustable. Baby powder is sometimes called talcum powder and is composed only partly of talc, the rest is starch, which is really combustible.

While trying to find a example of talcum powder (baby powder) that specified the proportion of talc to starch I came across this, "organic baby powder" sold by an entity calling itself "The Honest Company." The products claim to fame is that it's supposedly talc-free, which means that it's almost entirely starch. The ingredients are list on the package using the botanical names which some morons find impressive. By weight their "organic baby powder" is mostly Zea mays, common corn starch. They charge $12 for four ounces of corn starch... The Honest Company... yeah, right.

Scott said...

"Get yerself a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer"


Karl Armstrong! Is that you?

david7134 said...

From the urban manual produced by the army. Take an empty tuna can, pack it half full of basic black powder (from hunting store) and the other half with aluminum flake (from paint store). Insert detonator in middle. Place a 5 lb. bag of baking flour over can and put in center of room. Will bring down a whole house.