Firecracker injuries increase as New Year approaches

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More than 160 people have been injured by fireworks as the country prepares to welcome the New Year, the government said on Saturday.

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A 14-year-old boy who lost his right hand and an elderly man with a ruptured eyeball were among the worst injured so far, Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said.

Tayag tweeted that a five-year-old had also lost his right index finger from using fireworks.

Filipinos traditionally greet the New Year by making noise in the belief it will drive bad spirits away.

Households start stockpiling fireworks around Christmas and start using them days before New Year’s Eve.

Apart from fireworks, gun owners are another seasonal hazard as they fire their weapons in the air to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

Tayag said government hospitals had tallied 164 firework injuries in the runup to New Year’s Eve, plus one case of a firecracker being swallowed.

“Active fireworks users (are) up by eight percent this year compared to 2012,” he said, without giving figures.

He said one person was also wounded by a stray bullet.

Celebratory gunfire killed a four-year-old boy and more than 400 others were injured by powerful fireworks in the runup to 2013, according to police and health department tallies.

Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima urged the public to be vigilant and report to authorities persons who fire their guns or use banned firecrackers.

“Please report your neighbors who explode powerful firecrackers to the police immediately,” Purisima said.

He said complaints or reports can be sent through 0917-8475757.

Purisima said one way of preventing injuries from stray bullets is to report to the police persons that have the tendency to become trigger-happy.

Malacañang on Saturday also appealed to the public to heed the Department of Health’s (DOH) warnings against using firecrackers to welcome the New Year.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte urged parents to keep fireworks out of children’s reach.

“We wish to remind the public to heed the warnings and advisories of the DOH against the use of firecrackers, especially when it comes to children,” she said.

She added that the Palace is throwing its support behind Health Secretary Enrique Ona’s call that children should not be allowed to handle fireworks.

AFP, BENJIE VERGARA AND PNA

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