Two Badly Burned as Fireworks Fall on Crowd at Balloon Festival

By Zarni Mann 15 November 2018

MANDALAY—At least two people were seriously injured when a frame carrying fireworks fell from a hot-air balloon onto a crowd of onlookers on the opening day of the annual Fire Balloon Festival in Taunggyi, southern Shan State, on Wednesday.

According to the festival committee, a frame carrying about 50 kg of burning fireworks fell from the fire balloon belonging to the Dat-Khae team onto a crowd of spectators below.

“Ropes holding the frame to the balloon snapped while the balloon was in the air. The frame fell onto the crowd and two people were seriously injured,” said U Than Zaw, the head of the festival committee.

The committee said one young man received burns to about 15 percent of his body, mostly on his right leg and arm, and another suffered burns to his hand.

“They are in stable condition after receiving medical treatment in hospital. About three or four other spectators received minor injuries and had to run for their lives,” U Than Zaw said.

According to the committee, the field where the festival was held was overcrowded for the festival’s opening ceremony on Wednesday.

“Every year, we warn spectators not to approach the fire balloons, especially those carrying fireworks, as it is potentially dangerous if anything goes wrong. However, yesterday was the opening ceremony and the field was overcrowded, making it hard for spectators to escape the accident,” U Than Zaw said.

Dozens of fire balloon teams compete for prizes at the Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival, which is one of the most famous and significant cultural celebrations in Myanmar. Accidents are common, with at least one or two people injured most years, either during preparations for the festival or during the event itself. Fatalities have occurred.

The festival continues until Nov. 22—the Full Moon Day of Tazaungmone—with hundreds of teams from Taunggyi and surrounding villages competing to send the grandest and most beautiful hot-air balloons aloft.

This year a total of 81 teams entered fireworks-bearing hot-air balloons, 42 teams entered lantern-decorated balloons, and 291 teams entered animal-shaped balloons.