Solar panels catch fire at Taiwan water park during heatwave

TAIPEI // More than 1,200 people were evacuated from a Taiwan water park after solar panels caught fire in the midst of a heatwave that has seen record power consumption as the island struggles to keep cool.

The fire in Taipei, which happened on Wednesday, could have been sparked by soaring temperatures, according to local media. The mercurcy hit 38.5°C for two consecutive days on Wednesday and Thursday, the second highest temperature ever recorded for July.

Nobody was injured and the fire was put out within half an hour, but it left a swathe of solar panels at the park blackened and distorted.

The Taipei water park’s chief engineer Wang Ming-fu said the fire may have been the result of a short circuit due to high temperatures or the overheating of the panels, which have been in service for 10 years, Taiwan’s Central New Agency reported.

Fire department officials said they were still investigating the cause of the blaze but added it was rare for solar panels to ignite.

The water park reopened on Thursday. Visitors were undeterred by the the previous day’s blaze as they sought respite from the sweltering heat after a month of scorching weather.

The hot spell is set to continue for the next few days, prompting a warning from Taiwan’s power authorities who say that energy is running low.

Daily power usage hit a record 35.821 million kilowatts on Wednesday, Taiwan Power Company said, as residents reached for the air conditioning.

Electricity consumption in July up was 1.17 per cent from the same period last year, it said.

The heatwave comes after US scientists warned that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year ever globally.

The warmest weather ever recorded in Taipei was 39.3°C in August 2013.

* Agence France-Presse


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