Concerns raised about Sentosa Colour Run

A few pull out but organiser allays safety fears, denies any link to Taiwan event

CONCERNED participants of the Colour Run, in which runners are doused with coloured powder, may pull out of the Sentosa race following an explosion at a "colour party" in a water park in Taiwan last Saturday.

One woman died and close to 500 people, including a Singaporean, were injured in the incident.

A spokesman for the Sentosa run's organiser confirmed it had received cancellation requests for the run in August and will handle those on a case-by-case basis. The Straits Times understands there have been fewer than 10 requests.

"The Colour Run has no association with the venue, organisers, or equipment used at the Taiwan incident," said the spokesman. "However, we take the events that occurred in Taipei very seriously." He added: "We have had zero fire-related incidents in 500 global events with more than four million participants... The safety of our runners and clients is of paramount importance."

The Colour Run here will be held on Aug 22 and 23. The run, which has taken place in countries including the United States, Australia and China, is organised by IMG, a global sports, entertainment and media firm.

Touted as the "Happiest 5k on the Planet", it is a non-competitive, untimed 5km event in which runners in white are drenched in coloured cornstarch at each kilometre, so that the participants finish in a riot of hues.

Close to 500 revellers were injured in the blaze at the Colour Play Asia event at the Formosa Fun Coast water park just outside the capital Taipei on Saturday evening. It is suspected to have been caused by an explosion of the coloured powder, which was made from cornstarch, according to officials.

The news prompted some to post on the Colour Run Singapore's Facebook page, asking if the event was safe, as well as about the coloured powder used and measures taken to prevent a similar incident.

According to the Colour Run website, the coloured powder is made of "food grade cornstarch and is 100 per cent natural and safe".

The spokesman said the powder used in its events has been tested and successfully passed the required European Union standards for flammability.

"The powder used in the (incident) in Taipei was different from that used in Colour Run events and was not provided by the Colour Run supplier," he added.

A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said cornstarch is "normally harmless and edible" and hence not regulated by the SCDF. "However, when it is dispersed in large amounts of very fine particles and comes into contact with a heat source, it could result in a flash fire."

Some participants have called on the run's organiser to provide more information on the safety measures taken. Undergraduate Colin Lai, 21, who signed up for the run, said: "If they have nothing in the works in terms of precautions, then I would pull out of the run."

At least one other event here also involved coloured powder.

This was a celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival, organised in March by local events management company GsvTech on Sentosa and attended by about 3,800 people.

But GsvTech director Subhir Gupta said the powder used was not made from cornstarch, but powdered clay mixed with food-grade colouring that was non-toxic and non-flammable.

"We also avoid throwing the powder. We organised this year's Holi event to be a wet event, and we had water being sprayed, while the coloured powder was smeared by participants on each other, or sprayed after mixing from water guns. It would be very hard for a fire to happen."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Concerns raised about Sentosa Colour Run'. Print Edition | Subscribe