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12 injured in balloon accident at Tazaungdaing festivities in Taunggyi

FILE PHOTO: A lit traditional home-made paper balloon is released into the sky during the annual Tazaungdaing balloon festival in Taunggyi, Shan State, on 19 November 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

A hot-air balloon laden with combustibles went down in a fiery mishap on Monday evening in Taunggyi, crashing into a local shop and injuring at least 12 people during the annual Tazaungdaing holiday celebrations in the Shan State capital.

Six of the wounded sustained serious injuries, according to the local fire services department.

“When it reached about 100 feet high, the balloon caught fire. As it reached 200 feet high, it fell onto the spectators’ grounds near the field where the balloons are launched into the air,” said Kyaw Thu, chief officer of the Taunggyi Township fire services department.

“It crashed onto a vendor’s shop and set the shop ablaze. Fire trucks nearby rushed to the scene. … The fire services team put out the fire after a few minutes; it took less than 15 minutes. A 40-year-old woman and two girls had serious burn injuries all over their bodies as the frame of fireworks fell onto them. They were sent over to Sao San Tun Hospital.”

A total of 12 people were reportedly injured and the six most seriously wounded are continuing to receive medical treatment at the hospital.

The 40-year-old woman and a 20-year-old woman are in critical condition. The other four hospitalised, including a seven-year-old boy, sustained burn injuries on their limbs.

Kyaw Thu said he could not yet confirm any fatalities.

The balloon was carrying 25 viss (approximately 40 kilograms) of fireworks. The Twun Tee group, the sponsoring team, said it put about 4 million kyats ($2,930) into creating the balloon.

Festivities continued on Monday night in spite of the incident.

Casualties are not uncommon at the Taunggyi Tazaungdaing celebration, when some balloons’ failure to successfully launch often sends fireworks shooting into crowds of revelers that can number in the tens of thousands.

This year’s festivities in the Shan State capital will conclude on 3 November.