‘Firecracker injuries worse this year’
Health officials are worried that this year will be “worse” than the past five years as cases of fireworks-related injuries continue to rise before the New Year, even as a growing number of local governments have banned the use of firecrackers in welcoming 2014.
Assistant Health Secretary Enrique Tayag said in radio interviews that the number of injuries as of Monday was higher by 21 percent than the average from 2008 to 2012.
“We are afraid the figures this year will surpass previous records. So we are doing a last-minute campaign. We are appealing to the public not to light firecrackers this New Year’s Eve,” said Tayag, also head of the National Epidemiology Center.
To help reduce injuries, at least three cities in Mindanao led by Davao City, Zamboanga and Kidapawan have been observing a no-firecrackers holiday season.
Davao City, which has been implementing the ban the past 11 years, wants to be known as the city of “torotot” (party horns).
In Metro Manila, the cities of Caloocan and Valenzuela have also launched campaigns against using firecrackers.
Tayag reported on his Twitter account that the total number of revelry-related injuries had shot up to 244 as of 6 a.m of Dec. 30.
In one day, 46 cases were added to the Department of Health (DOH) list of injuries.
Stray bullets, ‘piccolo’
Of the injuries, one was caused by firecracker ingestion while five were due to stray bullets.
“Piccolo,” a banned firecracker, remains the major cause of injuries, with 153 cases, or 64 percent of the total number of injuries.
“We are preparing for the worst but we are hopeful that the number of injuries this year will not surpass last year’s levels,” Tayag said.
The number of people using firecrackers continues to increase despite the government’s appeal for the public to welcome the New Year through alternative noisemaking methods.
The DOH noted that most of those injured (87 percent) were males, while 30 percent were children below 10 years old. Half of the incidents recorded happened in Metro Manila.
In Davao City, Arnold Dellosa, Smart’s regional sales manager for South Mindanao, said the firm was planning to gather 10,000 torotot-blowers in one place this year to break Japan’s 6,900 record of party-horn blowers in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The event at Freedom Park on Roxas Boulevard in the city will start at 1 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. on Jan. 1.
In homes, city residents have become creative making noise or playing music at full volume, banging pans and even shouting at the top of their lungs.
In Zamboanga, the city council in November passed a resolution temporarily suspending the sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics during the Christmas season.
The resolution stemmed from the attempt of Moro National Liberation Front forces to occupy the city, which led to three weeks of fighting with government forces in September and October.
Msgr. Crisologo Manongas, administrator of the archdiocese of Zamboanga, said that instead of buying firecrackers, residents could donate money to Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors in the Visayas.
For good of everybody
Kidapawan City has also banned firecrackers and pyrotechnics this year.
“This is for the good of everybody. It may take some time before we can really adapt to the firecracker ban but we should start now,” Kidapawan Mayor Joseph Evangelista said.
The Kidapawan City Fireworks Vendors Association had appealed to the city government to allow its members to sell “safe firecrackers and pyrotechnics” and promised they would sell their wares in “city government-identified areas.”
But Evangelista, showing political will, politely turned down the request.
“This is to ensure the safety of the public by preventing injuries and even death due to accidents arising from the use of firecrackers and pyrotechnics,” he said.
In Caloocan City, Mayor Oscar Malapitan led a motorcade on Monday that meandered through the city’s 188 barangays (villages), urging residents to stop using firecrackers and firearms to start the New Year.
“We are appealing to all residents to use alternative methods of noisemaking. We don’t want them to be injured because firework-related accidents and fires can still happen no matter how careful they are in lighting firecrackers,” Malapitan said in a statement.
The motorcade, which started at the northernmost barangays of Caloocan bordering Bulacan province, traveled southward and ended in the city proper.
Images of injuries
Along the route, city officials handed out posters showing graphic images of firecracker injuries to deter people from using firecrackers.
“We also urge gun owners not to discharge their firearms into the air on New Year’s Eve. Please be reminded of the tragedy of 7-year-old resident Stephanie Nicole Ella who was a stray-bullet victim almost a year ago,” he added.
In Valenzuela City, the health office has launched an information campaign about the dangers of using fireworks while the fire department started a drive to inform people of the fire risks that firecrackers pose.
The fire department is also giving safety tips for residents to minimize the risk of fire during New Year’s celebrations.
The health office said there were other materials aside from fireworks that could be used for making noise to usher in the New Year.
“Residents can just blow toy horns or bang tin pots instead of lighting firecrackers,” said Kaier Camlian, coordinator of the City Health Emergency Services.
Camlian said the two city government-operated hospitals—Valenzuela Emergency Hospital and Valenzuela Medical Center—were ready to treat any firecracker injuries.
Hospitals in Manila are preparing to treat firecracker-related injuries during the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
At Ospital ng Maynila, first-aid materials, such as sterile dressing, gauze wraps, syringes and saline solutions were prepared a week before welcoming 2014.
Emergency room head nurse Reynaldo Rico told the Inquirer that all needed materials had been placed in the trauma section of the emergency room where firecracker-related injuries would be treated.
Based on the hospital’s record, a total of 11 cases of firecracker injuries have been treated in the medical institution since Dec. 25.
The burn, laceration and hematoma cases listed were all caused by the use of piccolo.
Rico noted that most of the patients were ages 8 to 15.
Santa Ana Hospital recorded 12 cases of trauma injuries from firecrackers. But the doctor in charge, Rodcar Santos, noted that the hospital tended to have more asthma-attack cases during New Year’s Eve.
“For the past years, we have observed that the number of injuries caused by firecrackers had gone down but this has been replaced by patients who complain of breathing problems caused by firecracker fumes,” Santos told the Inquirer.
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