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Solar panels blaze at water park in Taiwan heatwave
by Staff Writers
Taipei (AFP) July 28, 2016

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.

Local media reported the fire in Taipei -- which left a swathe of solar panels at the park blackened and distorted -- could have been sparked by soaring temperatures.

The mercurcy hit 38.5 degrees Celsius for two consecutive days on Wednesday and Thursday, the second highest temperature ever recorded for July.

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 told AFP they were still investigating the cause of the blaze, which happened Wednesday, but added it was rare for solar panels to ignite.

Nobody was injured and the fire was put out within half an hour.

The water park reopened Thursday and 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 and has prompted a warning from Taiwan's power authorities who say that energy is running low.

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

Electricity consumption in July up was 1.17 percent 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 degrees in August 2013.

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