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Duterte fear factor lowers firecracker injuries

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FEAR of being punished by President Rodrigo Duterte caused a huge drop in the number of fireworks-related injuries to 350 cases, 60 percent lower than last year’s figure and the five-year average of 2011 to 2015, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said Sunday.

This year’s figure was the lowest in 10 years, and followed Duterte’s declaration that he was considering banning firecrackers nationwide.

“People are now afraid to light firecrackers because of the President. They have this impression that somehow they will get caught or they will be punished,” said Ubial.

Duterte last month said he would issue an order to ban people from using firecrackers, limiting their use to community fireworks displays.

“The least that I can say or do is just to issue a warning that it’s very, very dangerous,” he said pending the order’s release.

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Duterte said he was concerned about children, who make up most of the victims.

AFTERMATH. Casualties of the New Year revelries include two men, one  a gunshot victim (top) and another, from a firecracker blast (bottom), both taken for treatment at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. Noel Celis/AFP

Of total 350 cases reported as of 6 a.m. of Jan. 1, Ubial said 348 were from fireworks or firecracker accidents, and two cases were traced to the ingestion of firecrackers.

She also said that 132 (38 percent) out of 348 injuries were caused by piccolo, a prohibited firecracker.  It continues to be the leading cause of firework-related injuries. Kwitis came in next, accounting for 20 percent of all injuries.

Luces and fountain each accounted for five percent of the cases.

Most fireworks-related injuries came from Metro Manila, which recorded 211 cases (60 percent), followed by Western Visayas with 34 cases (10 percent), and Central Luzon with 29 cases (8 percent). 

In the National Capital Region, most cases or 81 out of 211 cases (38 percent) were from Manila. 

Quezon City had 48 cases (23 percent) and Marikina recorded 23 cases (11 percent).

Ubial said it was tragic that a 15-year-old girl from Malabon was hit by a stray bullet while watching a fireworks display at 11:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31.

She remained in a coma at Jose Reyes Medical Center in Manila. She could not be operated on since the bullet was lodged deep in her head.

Ubial thanked other agencies and local governments, non-government organizations and the media for helping the department with its anti-firecracker campaigns.

“Every year, we see the things that we need to strengthen in order to achieve our goal, and eventually, we do hope that we will attain zero casualties from fireworks and firecrackers during the holidays,” she said.

Top photo shows two residents of Ermita cleaning up a pile of firecracker wrappers while a young mother (bottom) gives  birth to a baby girl, one of the first to be born on New Year’s day in Manila. Noel Celis/AFP and Norman  Cruz

She noted that the cooperation of local government units to organize public fireworks displays contributed to success of this campaign.

The department’s monitoring of firecracker-related injuries started Dec. 21, 2016 and will end Jan. 5, 2017. The figures come from 50 hospitals reporting to the Health Department nationwide.

Ubial said the Iwas Paputok campaign will not end in January, however, as the department will push for the approval of an executive order to ban individual firecracker use and to foster community fireworks instead.

The Health secretary renewed her call to the public, especially children, not to pick up unexploded firecrackers on the streets. 

Ubial said that a majority of the victims or 58 percent of the injured were below 15 years old. 

She also reminded firecracker victims to go to the hospital regardless of the size of the wound to be given proper treatment.

“Tetanus can kill, and this can be due to wounds from firecrackers,” she said. 

She added that it is the responsibility of adults, especially parents or guardians to make sure that after the festivities, their surroundings must be cleaned up immediately so that children will not be tempted to pick up unexploded firecrackers on the streets.

Despite the government plea for gun owners to desist from firing them during the New Year, three people were hit by stray bullets, including the 15-year-old girl in Malabon.

The Philippine National Police also reported that 15 people were arrested for gun-related offenses, including a policeman and a soldier. Thirteen more people were being investigated for the illegal discharge of firearms during the New Year’s celebrations.

In Manila, PO1 Dabile Castillo, 29, assigned at the Manila Police District was arrested after he was caught firing his gun indiscriminately in the Tondo District Station 1. Castillo, who was drunk, was immediately placed under police custody.

In Oriental Mindoro, three military personnel were arrested for firing their guns indiscriminately ahead of the New Year.

A resident of San Fernando City in La Union, Rufino Galvez of San Agustine village was arrested for also firing his gun on New Year’s eve.

National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde said the number of stray bullet cases was lower than the 11 recorded stray bullet cases in Metro Manila last yar.

In Cagayan de Oro City, flames engulfed the building of a pharmaceutical company on New Year’s Day.

The Bureau of Fire Protection said the fire gutted the warehouse of Philusa Corp. at around 12:48 a.m., causing an estimated P3 million in damage. It was unclear if the fire was related to the New Year celebrations.

In Manila, five houses burned down after fireworks went off inside one of the houses in Callejon Dos, Sta. Ana, Manila.

The Bureau of Fire Protection said the fire started around midnight of Dec. 31 inside the house of Rolina Cervantes.

The five old houses were made mostly of wood and  the fire quickly spread. With Francisco Tuyay, Sandy Araneta, Lance Baconguis, AFP

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