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Firecracker injuries, fires bring in Philippine New Year

MANILA, January 1, 2011 (AFP) – The Philippines brought in the New Year in custom rowdy fashion on Saturday with firecrackers and celebratory gunfire that left at least two dead and hundreds injured, authorities said.

A series of blazes that erupted at various sites in the capital Manila also kept the fire department busy throughout the night as parties led to brawls and stabbing incidents.

The health department said 546 people were injured by firecrackers, and at least 20 injured by stray bullets.

Police said a woman hit by a stray bullet later died in hospital while another person died after ingesting a firecracker, according to the health department.

“I don’t want to play with firecrackers anymore,” cried a young boy as he was treated for burns to the eyes at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center in downtown Manila, according to an AFP photographer.

Many other victims, mostly children, were awaiting their turn at the emergency and trauma ward, which was on heightened alert in anticipation of New Year-related injuries.

There were also several patients with stab wounds sustained at brawls in New Year’s Eve parties, the hospital said.

Health Undersecretary David Lozada said 95 percent of those injured were either children, drunk men or spectators who veered too close to fireworks.

Meanwhile the fire department said blazes broke out at various sites around Manila, including a university, an apartment building and an abandoned residential area.

There were no reports of casualties from the fires, most of which were caused by fireworks.

“We have not slept since last night. There were eight fires last night alone, and it has now risen to 11 incidents,” Manila fire marshal Senior Superintendent Pablito Cordeta said on local radio.

Official government estimates show there are over 1.1 million unlicensed firearms in the hands of civilians.

In last year’s celebrations, over 900 people were injured by firecrackers and gunfire, the health department said.

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