TWO devotees died while hundreds of others were hurt before and during the procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila Saturday which was attended by millions of people from different parts of the country.
“We have a casualty or a fatality in our reports, one of the devotees who assisted and escorted the [Black Nazarene] float,” said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross.
Responding Red Cross physicians and volunteers tried everything to revive the 27-year-old devotee after having a seizure but to no avail. The man, a resident of Sampaloc, Manila, was declared dead around 11:40 a.m.
Another fatality was reported by the National Capital Region Police Office before the procession.
NCRPO spokesperson Kimberly Molitas said personnel of the Department of Health rushed the 48-year-old Mauro Arabit from Evangelista Street in Quiapo to the Dr. Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center but attending doctors declared him dead on arrival around 3 a.m.
Coast Guard personnel was also able to rescue a teenager who fell to the Pasig River as the procession reached the Jones Bridge.
Another devotee sustained head injury when he tried to jump onto the carriage holding the image of the Black Nazarene. Others experienced dizziness and difficulty in breathing during the procession.
“We asked the people to avoid getting nearer to the crowded areas if they are experiencing any discomfort or condition, and to just keep watch along the processional route of the Black Nazarene,” said Manila Police District director Rolando Nana.
MPD officials said there are also cases involving minor injuries and lacerations on the feet. They added most of those injured are women, elders and minors.
Red Cross medical booths assisted at least 700 individuals as of 1 p.m.
The agency recorded two deaths during last year’s Traslacion while more than 1,000 devotees were given medical assistance.
Authorities said the procession started much earlier than the past. It only took about two minutes to transfer the life-sized Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to its float, and for the procession to start at 5:30 a.m.
Molitas said based on NCRPO records, 279 (106 male and 173 female) were given medical assistance as of 10 a.m.
Although there were reports of pickpockets and petty theft during the religious event, Molitas said the occasion was generally peaceful.
Johnny Uy, head of the Manila City Risk Reduction and Management Council, said more than 1.5-million people participated in the event as early as 6 a.m.
Majority of those escorted the float and at least 80,000 gathered in front of the Quiapo Church as of 7:30 a.m.
Uy said they are expecting the procession’s crowd to balloon to 13 million to 15 million by the evening.
“Today is Saturday and there’s no classes then tomorrow is Sunday. So, there is a possibility that the number of people will be doubled, may mga nagka-camping talaga. pami-pamilya po ngayon eh,” he said.
Also as of 10 a.m., a team of street sweepers from the Metro Manila Development Authority already collected six trucks of garbage scattered from the area of Luneta Park to Manila City Hall.
Francis Martinez, MMDA- Metro Parkway Clearing Group chief, said the trash collected, composed mainly of plastic food wrappers and empty mineral water bottles, were hauled to Pier 18 in Manila in coordination with the city government.
He added the clearing operation was quite efficient as the MMDA personnel followed the main bulk of the procession and collected trash.