Hundreds hurt in New Year revelry in Philippines

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Manila, Jan 1: Filipinos woke up to a thick smog shrouding Manila today after a raucous New Year revelry of street parties, firecrackers and firing of guns that resulted in 624 injuries across the country.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque said injuries during the New Year celebrations were 39 per cent higher compared with 448 recorded during last year's celebrations.

''I think people have more money now. Literally, they have more money to burn,'' he told a news conference.

Duque also said Filipinos probably blasted more firecrackers because they were feeling more optimistic about the economy.

Filipinos believe a noisy New Year will drive away bad luck and evil spirits.

The number of injuries rose to 907 from December. 21 up to the New Year celebrations compared with 610 in the same period last year, the health department said.

The figure did not include the 25 people killed when a fire that started from a firecracker razed a department store in Ormoc City in central Philippines on Christmas day.

Last year, seven people were killed during the Christmas and New year festivities.

Police said firecrackers were the cause of 25 fires since December. 21, including a church that was gutted in Manila's Las Pinas district early on Monday.

''I cannot understand why our countrymen never learn,'' Michael Ty, spokesman of state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH), told local radio DZBB.

Ty said the worst cases received by his hospital included a 10-year-old child who needed to have four fingers in one hand amputated because of firecrackers and a pregnant woman who almost lost her child to a stray bullet.

He said the woman was hit in the stomach, but doctors managed to deliver the baby safely.

Elsewhere in Manila, the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center recorded six incidents of people hit by stray bullets, the youngest an 11-year old boy, radio reports said.

Each year, police and soldiers are required to cover the muzzle of their guns with masking tape before the New Year and health officials campaign on radio and television against the use of firecrackers.

''I think blasting firecrackers is now deep-rooted in the culture of Filipinos,'' Duque said.


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