Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 4 News List

Firecracker injuries and fires mark New Year in Philippines

AFP, MANILA

The Philippines brought in the New Year in custom rowdy fashion yesterday with firecrackers and celebratory gunfire that left at least two dead and hundreds injured, authorities said.

A series of blazes that broke out around the capital Manila kept the fire department busy throughout the night as parties led to brawls and stabbing incidents.

The Philippine Department of Health said 546 people were injured by firecrackers, and at least 20 by stray bullets.

Police said a woman hit by a stray bullet later died in hospital while another person died after ingesting a firecracker, the health department said.

“I don’t want to play with firecrackers anymore,” cried a young boy as he was treated for burns to his eyes at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in downtown Manila.

Many other victims, mostly children, were awaiting their turn at the emergency and trauma ward, which was on heightened alert in anticipation of New Year-related injuries.

There were also several patients with stab wounds sustained from brawls at New Year’s Eve parties, the hospital said.

Philippine Health Undersecretary David Lozada said 95 percent of those injured were either children, drunk men or spectators who got too close to fireworks.

Meanwhile the fire department said blazes broke out at various sites around Manila, including a university, an apartment building and an abandoned residential area.

There were no reports of casualties from the fires, most of which were caused by fireworks.

“We have not slept since last night. There were eight fires last night alone, and it has now risen to 11 incidents,” Manila fire marshal Senior Superintendent Pablito Cordeta said on local radio.

Official government estimates show there are over 1.1 million unlicensed firearms in the hands of civilians.

In last year’s celebrations, over 900 people were injured by firecrackers and gunfire, the health department said.

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