New Year's festivities got a little out of hand in the Philippines last night, with firework accidents reportedly killing one person, injuring nearly 400 others, and sparking a massive blaze that burned down about 1,000 shanty homes in Manila.
Officials said the fire began when a stray rocket from a firework ignited an abandoned hut in Manila's Tondo slum district, the Associated Press reported. The news agency said several thousand families were displaced after their homes were destroyed.
Health Secretary Janet Garin also told reporters that, in a separate incident, a drunk man lit a powerful firecracker called "Goodbye Philippines" and died when it went off in his arms. An additional 380 people were injured by exploding firecrackers and other incidents during the New Year's Eve revelry, which is traditionally marked in the Philippines with massive displays of pyrotechnics and celebratory gunshots fired into the air.
While 380 injuries might seem like a lot, the health secretary said it was actually a significant improvement over last year, when nearly twice as many people were hurt. The AP reported that heavy rains and government safety warnings helped minimize the mayhem this year. A public awareness campaign showed images of bloodied victims missing limbs to push for greater safety precautions during the annual celebration.
High-powered, dynamite-like firecrackers are officially banned in the Philippines, but they are still sold illegally and are easily accessible to ordinary citizens. Garin said an outright ban on all firecrackers is necessary to prevent injuries and deaths in future years.
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