Philippines: fireworks, bullets injure 260 in New Year’s countdown — More than 260 people have been injured by fireworks or stray bullets in the days leading up to the New Year’s Eve countdown in the Philippines, said authorities.
In some of the worst incidents on Tuesday, an eight-year-old boy lost his right hand due to a powerful firecracker in the city of Cebu, and a 40-year-old woman suffered an accidental gun injury in Manila, according to reports.
The Health Department said 253 people have been injured by fireworks and eight others by stray bullets, said reports. It warned that more injuries or even deaths were expected as the nation goes about celebrating the holiday in typically noisy fashion.
A spokesman said authorities were bracing for 50-80 injuries from fireworks every hour in the 12-hour period before and after midnight, according to reports.
There is a widespread belief among the population that making noise to welcome in the New Year drives away evil spirits and brings good luck.
Many people take it to an extreme by firing guns into the air and letting off powerful fireworks in spite of a government ban.
In last year’s celebrations, two children were killed by stray bullets and over 400 people received injuries.
The deaths led to widespread public calls for stricter gun controls in a country with a thriving black market for firearms.
Legally, shops are only allowed to stock small fireworks, but many reportedly still sell the large ones that are capable of maiming or killing if not used properly.
On Tuesday, customers were rushing to buy supplies, ignoring government calls for less noisy celebrations.
One shopper said the celebration would not be complete without the firecrackers, as it was a family tradition and cannot simply be stopped.
Favourite firecrackers include the “Judas belt”, which is a string of triangular crackers that pop like machine gunfire, and a longer version called by the Filipino word for python which is wrapped around lamp posts or trees to be set off.