By Girlie Linao
MANILA — Nearly 500 people were injured by fireworks and gunfire in the Philippines despite a government campaign against rowdy celebrations to welcome the New Year, officials said Sunday.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said 454 people were hurt from firecrackers and 18 were hit by stray bullets from guns fired into the air, while four accidentally ingested gunpowder.
Ona said the tally was made from December 21 to January 1.
No deaths were reported and injuries were 13 percent less than last year, but Ona said, “I’m quite disappointed that the decline in the number of injuries was not as much as we expected.”
Last year, seven people were killed in firecracker accidents and 546 were injured.
Several flights, including two international flights, were postponed or canceled on New Year’s Day amid zero visibility due to thick smog from the evening.
“This is worrisome,” Ona said of the smog. “This is not just bad for our health, but it can also endanger public transportation.
Filipinos traditionally set off firecrackers and make a lot of noise on New Year’s Eve in the belief that they will drive away the bad luck of the past year and attract good luck in the coming year.
The health department has been pushing for a total ban on the use of firecrackers, but the proposal has been met by strong opposition from the fireworks industry.