Firecrackers kill one in Beijing on Lunar New Year eve 2008-02-07 14:56:54   Print

Spring Festival Special 2008

    BEIJING, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- One person was killed and 76 others were injured by fireworks over the past day in Beijing, the capital city's temporary fireworks office said on Thursday.

    The deceased victim, surnamed Zhang, was badly hurt while igniting a homemade device at 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Lunar New Year's eve, in his courtyard. He died in the early hours of Thursday, the first day of the Year of the Rat, despite emergency medical treatment.

    An investigation showed that Zhang had been drinking beforehand.

    The fireworks office, which was launched on Thursday morning to supervise fireworks displays during the holiday, said that fireworks had triggered 90 fires since Wednesday night.

    However, the number of fires was down 21 percent from last year, and injuries were down 42 percent, according to the police.

    "From 1 a.m. to 8 a.m., our hospital received 51 patients whose eyes were injured when setting off fireworks. Twenty of those patients had eye surgeries, and two children lost eyes," said Lu Hai, director of the Eye Trauma Department of Tongren hospital on Thursday.

    Beijing cordoned off 102 streets in 106 residential compounds for fireworks displays.

    Some 3,500 street cleaners and 105 trucks cleaned up 54 tons of debris over a 10-hour period, according to the Beijing Environment Sanitation Engineering Group on Thursday morning.

    The city lifted a 12-year ban on firecrackers in 2006. Since then, two deaths, 1,510 injuries and more than 2,400 fires caused by mishandled firecrackers have been reported.

    Deafening and sometimes fatal, firecrackers are nonetheless an essential element of China's most important festival of Lunar New Year, which officially began on Thursday.

    Beijing tightened control over illegal firecracker production this year by launching a crackdown on substandard firecracker workshops throughout the city. Checkpoints were set up at the entrances of every major highway into Beijing to prevent the inflow of illegal firecrackers. Also, Beijing police destroyed 3,000 boxes of substandard firecrackers, valued at more than 1.2 million yuan (167,000 U.S. dollars), ahead of the festival.

    China accounts for about 75 percent of world firecracker production.

    More than 410,000 police officers, volunteers and security guards and 5,700 vehicles were patrolling the city overnight on Wednesday to ensure a safe traditional Spring Festival for local residents.

    "We are extremely busy on the Lunar New Year's eve. I must answer up to several hundred calls to deal with emergency situations in just an hour," said Zhang Chao, 26, who works for the "110" police hot line.

    Zhang has stayed in Beijing for the past two years during the Spring Festival instead of returning to his northeast hometown of Heilongjiang. "Hard work is rewarding if it helps to rescue someone," Zhang said.

Editor: Mo Hong'e
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