354 injured in revelry

But authorities say New Year ‘victims’ lowest since 2010

FIRECRACKERS and gunfire during New Year revelry left 354 people injured, with more than a dozen requiring amputations, including a 5-year-old boy, acting Health Secretary Janette Garin said Thursday.

The annual tide of injuries during New Year celebrations dropped to the lowest in five years, with 351 people hurt by fireworks and three hit by stray bullets in the last few days of 2014, Garin said.

However, the number of people who had to undergo amputations shot up to 14 from eight last year, she said, adding that a 5-year-old boy lost his hand.

Garin said the Health Department’s campaign against indiscriminate fireworks and the passage of tropical storm Seniang, which brought heavy rains to the central and southern islands, had brought down the injury toll.

She said the department would continue to monitor hospitals for more injuries or deaths that might be reported later.

Authorities have repeatedly warned against the custom of welcoming the New Year with indiscriminate fireworks and celebratory gunfire, which result in numerous injuries and fatalities every year.

In the previous year’s celebrations, at least two people were killed and 793 others were left injured.

Of the 351 fireworks-related injuries in 2014, two were from firework ingestion.

In 2013, there were 578 New Year’s Eve-related injuries, with 566 due to fireworks and 11 due to stray bullets.

Almost half of the injuries or 168 were in Metro Manila.

After the New Year revelry, health authorities warned against picking up unexploded firecrackers, and underscored the responsibility of parents and adults to children.

The anti-pollution group EcoWaste Coalition claimed a victory for the public with the decline in the number of firecracker-related injuries.

“We recognize all the Iwas Paputok advocacy partners, particularly the DOH, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine National Police and the EcoWaste Coalition, for their contributions to a good campaign outcome. We hope that the data will not dramatically change with the arrival of additional information from the regions in the coming days,” said EcoWaste in a statement.

But the group said more work needed to be done.

“We believe that no Filipino should suffer from the physical wounds and mutilations and the psychological trauma caused by the blasting of firecrackers or the indiscriminate firing of guns, which often would have life-long consequences. Our target is zero morbidity and mortality from firecrackers and stray bullets, and we are not yet there.

“As a waste and pollution watchdog, we further believe that dirtying our fragile environment with hazardous fumes and residual wastes from firecrackers and pyrotechnics is absolutely unreasonable and unjustifiable in the era of climate change where super typhoons are deemed to be the ‘new normal.’ Our target is zero emission and zero waste, and we are far from being there.” 

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