Fireworks injuries rise to 186 before New Year

MANILA – Philippine officials Monday reported more injuries from fireworks as the emergency services braced for a night of thunderous and sometimes deadly merrymaking to usher in the new year.

Injuries linked to firecrackers have risen to 186 since the Christmas weekend, including 33 with eye injuries and six victims who had limbs amputated, the health department announced.

The number stood at 171 on Sunday.

Casualties are expected to peak as the revelry hits a crescendo at midnight, said Emmanuel Bello, emergency ward chief at East Avenue Medical Center, one of Manila’s biggest state hospitals that has treated 22 cases.

“Most of the adult casualties stem from drunkenness. They drink and then they set off firecrackers,” said Bello, who has called in all of the hospital’s more than 100 burns, orthopaedic and emergency care specialists.

“If they lose their thumbs and index fingers they lose most of the functions of their hand and so they are unable to work, condemning their families to hardship,” Bello, a bone surgeon, told AFP.

However the majority of casualties are children aged 10 or younger who may be unaware of the dangers of fireworks, he added.

The health department said one person was also wounded by a stray bullet, likely from the Filipino tradition of celebratory gunfire in the air.

Filipino families celebrate Christmas and New Year by buying and setting off large quantities of fireworks which emit ear-splitting noise and black powder smoke, causing some communities to resemble war zones.

The government reported 454 firecracker-related injuries as 2012 was welcomed in.

National police chief Alan Purisima said the capital’s slums were being closely watched because of the threat of blazes from wayward fireworks.

President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Ramon Carandang, commenting on Twitter Monday, pleaded: “New Year-related injuries will peak in the next 24 hours. Don’t be a statistic. Party on… but do it safely.”_