1 dead, 4 injured in Taunggyi firework explosion

A Taunggyi fire balloon about to be released.
A Taunggyi fire balloon about to be released.

The home of a pyrotechnician burst into flames in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi on Monday when a stray flare entered the home, causing the gun powder inside to explode. One person died as a result of the fire, and four people were injured.

Pyrotechnician Aung Ngal was testing gunpowder outside his home in Taunggyi’s Chanmyathasi Ward in preparation for the city’s Tazaungdaing balloon festival, which started this week. The festival features unmanned hot air balloons that are loaded with fireworks and timed to explode in the air.

After the stray flare entered Aung Gnal’s home, the flames spread quickly.

“The pyrotechnician was in charge of at least three or four hot air balloon projects, so he had quite a bit of gunpowder in stock,” Shan State Fire Department chief Tin Min told Eleven. “It spread extremely quickly. By many accounts, the fire quickly peaked within 15 minutes. We were informed five minutes after the fire started and got to the scene after 10 minutes.”

“Even though we were prepared with 12 vehicles on standby in preparation for the Tazaungdaing holiday, the fire quickly reached Level 3 status,” Tin Min said. “Taunggyi has good water supply for us to draw from, but the roads are very narrow, and the houses too close together.”

Four people were sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, and one volunteer who was assisting firefighters died from asphyxiation. The deceased was later identified as a mechanic from Shwe Nyaung.

The fire also destroyed six homes.

Taunggyi’s Tazaungdaing fire balloon festival attracts thousands of visitors from the local area and from around the world. Injuries caused by the fireworks and stampedes are common. Four people died during the festival in 2014.

In early October, local authorities assured the public that security at the festival would be higher this year than in previous years. The video below, taken by our Coconuts TV team, offers an example of just how crazy the festival can get.

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