Woe unto Taoyuan as spectators witness the death of Rubber Duck

Woe unto Taoyuan as spectators witness the death of Rubber Duck

TAIPEI - Hearts were broken, jaws dropped, and a helping hand was quickly extended from Kaohsiung yesterday when the inflatable yellow Rubber Duck on display in Taoyuan County suddenly burst and collapsed while being re-inflated.

Fans cannot expect the arrival of its replacement, the Kaohsiung version that had been on display in the southern port city, until Sunday, Nov. 3, organisers said, adding it may take quite a while to re-inflate the now deflated stand-in.

The Kaohsiung City Government yesterday agreed to let Taoyuan have it on loan.

After its Oct. 26 debut at the Taoyuan Land Art Festival in Xiwu Township, the 18-meter-tall, 18-meter-wide and 25-metre-long structure created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman developed holes and leaked overnight in the aftermath of a Nov. 1 earthquake in Hualien County on the East Coast.

The Rubber Duck drooped its head and was about to turn into a flabby mass when the electric fan feeding it ground to a halt and backup generators also crashed shortly after a power outage in the area at 2 a.m.

There was little the Taoyuan County Cultural Affairs Bureau, the event's official organizer, and the maintenance crew at the site could do when the power supply became unstable and equipment was not ready until 8 a.m., when they started trying to re-inflate the Rubber Duck using an electric pump, a job made difficult by strong winds, according to officials.

Shortly after, as pumping continued and the Rubber Duck regained some of its tautness, organizers decided to let in the day's first visitors. But at 9 a.m. sharp, the Rubber Duck suddenly burst with a loud bang in full view of onlookers, catching the maintenance crew and visitors by surprise.

A Taoyuan County post-mortem yesterday morning blamed overzealous and excessive pumping for the burst. Some experts, however, blamed the county's windy weather and sandy terrain for the duck's rapid wear and tear. As both the Taoyuan and Kaohsiung ducks are manufactured by the same company, the quality of the materials used should not be an issue, a manufacturer was quoted as saying.

On the other duck, however, maintenance crews had made several punctures on the duck's skin to let out water trapped inside before pumping started, according to Taoyuan officials. Hofman was not immediately available for comment.

The Dutch artist's gigantic inflatable Rubber Duck artwork caused quite a sensation when it went on display in Kaohsiung in September. And the adorable sculpture proved just as popular when it first appeared at the Taoyuan Land Art Festival on Oct. 26, as it drew hundreds of thousands of visitors to rural Xinwu Township during its first weekend on display.

The internationally renowned Rubber Duck has drawn huge crowds in cities ranging from Auckland and Hong Kong to Brazil's Sao Paulo and Japan's Osaka.

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