5 dead in Philippine revelry

January 1, 2010 12:00 am

, MANILA, Jan 1 – At least five people were killed and about 600 others were injured in traditional riotous New Year\\\’s Eve revelry involving fireworks and guns across the Philippines, officials said Friday.

A five-year-old boy and his mother were killed after being trapped inside the family-owned pyrotechnics store that went up in flames just hours before midnight Thursday in Gingoog city on southern Mindanao island, police said.

The inferno started when the boy\\\’s father and uncle tested a firecracker inside the store, setting off a chain reaction, police said.

The boy was sleeping inside the store and his mother rushed into the flames in a failed bid to save him, while a store helper also perished, police said.

In Zamboanga city also on Mindanao, another two revelers were killed and five others injured when a footbridge collapsed as they converged to watch a pyrotechnics show minutes before midnight, police said.

Elsewhere in the Philippines, another 571 people were injured by firecrackers and 26 by stray bullets, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

"Thirty-six cases, or six percent, had blast burn injuries (that needed) amputation" of mangled fingers or limbs, Duque told a news conference.

He said this year\\\’s New Year\\\’s Eve injuries were less than 2009, when 683 people were wounded by firecrackers and 17 by stray bullets

He said the lower firecracker-related injuries may be attributed to the government\\\’s "scare tactics".

These included television advertisements that showed gruesome images of severely mangled limbs and a tray of surgical instruments used in the amputation of a limb.

Making noise by exploding firecrackers and firing guns into the air are common ways of greeting the New Year in this Southeast Asian nation of 92 million people.

The Philippines is mainly Roman Catholic, but the celebrations draw on ancient superstitions and Chinese traditions in which the noise is meant to drive away evil spirits and bring good luck in the coming year.

Adding to the danger of the fireworks, there are over 1.2 million unlicensed firearms in the Philippines and some of those are used in the festivities.


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