China's Spring Festival fires kill 40

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BEIJING: At least forty people died in more than 118,000 cases of blazes set off by fireworks during the Chinese lunar new year holidays, the Ministry of Public Security said Tuesday.

The number of cases jumped from the 7,480 fires reported during last year's Spring Festival. The incidents also injured 37 people and caused more than 56 million yuan (8.5 million U.S. dollars) in damages, which is almost double the figure from last year, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The estimated losses, however, did not include a fire set off by fireworks that destroyed a five-star hotel in Shenyang city on February 3. The fire is possibly the largest fireworks accident this year.

Some 260,000 police and fire fighters across the country were mobilized for 24,800 fire control missions. Fire departments have been strengthening monitoring of high-rise buildings, shopping malls, markets, construction sites and other crowded or vulnerable locations, the agency reported.

The Chinese set off fireworks and firecrackers to welcome the Lunar New Year, following the tradition that the noise will ward off evil spirits. But each year hundreds are reported hurt in fires ignited by the fireworks.

Beijing banned fireworks in urban districts in 1993 out of concerns over environmental pollution and possible damages caused by fireworks. The ban was revoked in 2006, however, after the public complained about the loss of festive atmosphere.

(BNO NEWS )

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