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Taiwan police grapple for control of Pokemon swarms

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 - 12:09
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Police are struggling to control crowds at a hot springs park in Taiwan that has become a hub for Pokemon Go players after gaining a reputation as a spot to catch rare creatures.

[TAIPEI] Police are struggling to control crowds at a hot springs park in Taiwan that has become a hub for Pokemon Go players after gaining a reputation as a spot to catch rare creatures.

The normally quiet park in Beitou, just outside the capital Taipei, has been thronged in recent days by enthusiasts of the wildly popular mobile gaming app.

Pokemon Go has sparked a global frenzy since its launch last month as users hunt for virtual cartoon characters overlaid on real-world locations using augmented reality technology.

Police are now having to divert traffic around the Beitou park and bring in additional manpower to control the crowds, they said this week.

An unverified video that appeared to show thousands of people rushing across a traffic intersection in Beitou, apparently chasing after a Pokemon, went viral this week.

Police say they have now downloaded the app Go Radar - which players use to locate Pokemons - to predict where the crowds will gather.

On Tuesday night, hundreds of people of all ages swarmed through the park, an AFP photographer said.

The crowd rushed in one direction when someone cried "Dragonite! Dragonite!" - the name of a Pokemon considered hard to catch.

Others were playing the game while riding their scooters.

A total of 474 traffic fines have been doled out around the Beitou park over the last two weeks.

Earlier this month, police said more than 1,200 drivers around the island had been caught for violating traffic rules by playing the game while at the wheel, within days of Pokemon Go's launch in Taiwan.

But while authorities may be struggling, some local businesses in Beitou - famed for its hot springs - are tapping in to the trend, with hotels offering discounts to players and eateries drawing long queues.

AFP