Helium-filled balloons used as props for an Education Ministry fitness event at Dataran Putrajaya exploded on Saturday (Oct 12), injuring 16 people, including children who had rushed forward so they could take home the balloons.
The explosion reportedly occurred when someone tried to cut the string tied to a bunch of balloons with a cigarette lighter. The flame is believed to have touched one of the balloons before the whole bunch exploded. Nine of the injured are children.
Sri Rahayu Sugiono, 35, was among 16 people who suffered burns and were rushed to Putrajaya Hospital.
“The balloons exploded suddenly with a loud noise. I didn’t see any sparks. Once the balloons exploded, many children were heard crying and screaming. People were rushing to provide help,” she said.
Sri Rahayu attended the fitness programme as her daughter Nur Haffizah Khalid, six, was playing netball. Her two other children, Mohd Haffizal, five, and Nur Haffiqah, four, were also present. All three children were injured in the incident.
Ten of the 16 victims were allowed to return home while six were admitted. Five adults and an eight-year-old girl were receiving treatment for second-degree burns.
Sri Rahayu, who is an officer at the Education Ministry, said she suffered injuries to her hands and face, with holes burnt in her scarf and clothes with bits and pieces of exploded balloons sticking to her.
Her children sustained injuries on the back, arms and ears.
“After the explosion there was strong odour of gas,” Sri Rahayu said.
HELIUM MIXED WITH OTHER GASES
The balloon explosion was probably caused by the use of helium that has been mixed with other gases to reduce cost, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said.
She said if the gases were mixed, it could really spell danger and disaster.
“Helium, as I know, is inert but if mixed, to reduce costs, will be a problem. And if we know it’s flammable, don’t ever use lighters such as a cigarette lighter or a (lighted) cigarette,” she said.
She said the Social Welfare Department had also provided counselling aid to the traumatised victims.
To prevent recurrence of the incident, Dr Wan Azizah, who is also Women, Family and Community Development Minister, reminded the public not to smoke or use a cigarette lighter near helium gas-inflated balloons used as props at any event.
She said she had also talked to Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik and Deputy Minister Teo Nie Ching pertaining to safety guidelines to ensure that the incident will not recur.