John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
In Southeast Asia, the Hindenburg makes a hair-raising encore.
The Hot-Air Balloon Festival of Myannmar, formerly known as Burma, is a popular yearly blowout. Different neighborhoods of Taunggyi, a large city in the center of the country, compete to see who's crafted the best buoyant aircraft.
It's pretty clear who won this year's contest. It was the madman who rebuilt the Hindenburg and set it loose over a crowd of party-goers, where it vomited volleys of flaming missiles and brought infinite chaos to the suddenly frenzied streets.
The immolation of a large balloon carrying a hefty payload of fireworks occurred during the Tazaungdaing festival, an ages-old holiday signaling the end of the rainy season. Too bad, that: A boatload of rain might've kept this floating conflagration under control. The accident happened in late November, although it was only uploaded to YouTube this week by Kyle Mijlof, a veteran combat photographer to judge from the way he keeps the exploding aircraft in center frame.
What caused this fright night of fire and screams in Myanmar? One YouTuber, pocketjohnson, is guessing at the answer: "Looks like a classic case of false lift – a steady wind blows across the top of the balloon when it is held static on the ground creating lift. As soon the balloon moves with the wind the lift disappears and down it comes!"