Firecracker injuries hit 933 cases | Inquirer News

Firecracker injuries hit 933 cases

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 01:57 AM January 04, 2014

A father rushes his daughter to a hospital after being hit with a stray bullet following the raucous celebration to welcome the New Year Wednesday Jan. 1, 2014, in Manila. The sheer recalcitrance of traders, among others, contributed to the shocking rise in the number of fireworks-related New Year’s Eve injuries this year, which reached 933 cases on Friday, health authorities said. AP PHOTO/BULLIT MARQUEZ

The sheer recalcitrance of traders, the stubbornness of revelers, the authorities’ preoccupation with the tragic aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” even the notorious corruption at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Health authorities said all these factors contributed to the shocking rise in the number of fireworks-related New Year’s Eve injuries this year, which reached 933 cases on Friday.


“There are many factors to consider. Piccolo has been the cause of most revelry-related injuries in the country for the past years. We have been saying that it’s dangerous, yet many people, mostly children, still used it. How come it was being sold openly on the streets?” said Health Assistant Secretary Dr. Eric Tayag, who is also the director of the National Epidemiology Center (NEC).


“Despite warnings, many vendors were selling and people were patronizing it. It’s like they were taunting the authorities,” Tayag said at a press briefing on Friday.

According to Tayag, the DOH campaign against the use of fireworks during the Christmas and New Year revelry was delayed by several weeks because the agency was preoccupied with recovery efforts in the typhoon-devastated Eastern Visayas.

Abandoned scare tactics

The agency also decided to do away with its scare tactics campaign—circulating gory images of maimed hands and fingers of firecracker-injury victims—it usually uses to discourage the public from using fireworks and firecrackers because of the series of calamities that devastated the country.

“We didn’t want to add to the tragic situation. We wanted to be sensitive to the plight of the Yolanda victims, so we just aimed for a slogan that appealed to people to donate to them or do charity work,” Tayag said.

The DOH also would obviously need to coordinate more closely with the BOC to prevent the entry of illegal firecrackers, like the piccolo, said the health official.


Data from the DOH’s Aksyon Paputok Injury Reduction registry showed that 354 out of the 933 firework-related injuries reported as of Friday were caused by piccolo, a scratch-banger type of firecracker.

“Maybe it’s time that we intensify our partnership with the BOC” to block the entry of illegal firecrackers into the country, said Tayag.

Lack of coordination

He admitted that there has been a lack of coordination with the customs bureau on the part of the health department.

“Maybe that’s a little shortcoming on our part, knowing that piccolo is an imported firecracker,” he said.

The DOH data showed that the 933 cases of firework-related injuries at the turn of the year were 2 percent higher compared to the same period the year before. It has actually exceeded the 2012 total number of 931 cases.

Of the 914 fireworks-related injuries, 229 were children less than 10 years old.

One of the latest victims was an 11-year-old boy from Balong Bato in Quezon City who lost both hands after the gunpowder he was collecting from several firecrackers suddenly exploded.

Of the 933 cases, 914 were firecracker injuries, two were cases of firework ingestion. There were also eight additional cases of stray bullet injuries, bringing the total to 17 cases, most of which occurred in Metro Manila.

In San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte province, the 2-year-old boy who was hit by a stray bullet as he lay sleeping on the living room of the family home on New Year’s Eve died on Thursday after lying in a coma for two days.

The parents of Ranhz Angelo Corpuz were partying just outside their house in Barangay 3 Lusong on New Year’s Eve when the tragedy happened. At 11:10 p.m., just before 2013 ended, a stray bullet entered the house from the roof and hit the boy in the left temple.

Aniceta, the boy’s mother, noticed bloodstains on her son’s blanket. She thought some other family member had been wounded by a broken window pane and searched for broken glass shards, only to realize that it was her son who had been wounded.

The boy was rushed to the hospital where doctors worked for hours to keep him stable.

In Caoayan town, Ilocos Sur province, 3-month-old Von Alexander Llagas was killed by a stray bullet as he was sleeping in his house on Dec. 31.

Licensed gunowners

Police on Friday said there were 66,698 licensed weapons in the Ilocos region, based on their records. Police had issued 9,529 licenses to gun owners in Ilocos Norte and 631 of them live in San Nicolas, said Supt. Elvira Garen, chief of Ilocos police’s firearms and explosives section.

Garen said 10,442 licenses had been issued to Ilocos Sur gun owners, with 273 of them living in Caoayan.

Pangasinan province has 37,493 licensed gun owners while La Union province has 9,234 owners, she said.

San Nicolas Mayor Melanie Valdez has offered a P20,000 reward for information that would help to identify the gunman who killed Corpuz. A task force is pursuing leads in the case of the Llagas baby.

In Pangasinan, 27 more firecracker victims were still being treated in various hospitals on Friday, raising the number of firecracker injuries during the New Year’s Eve revelry in the province to 150.

Dr. Anna Ma. Teresa de Guzman, the provincial health officer, said the figure was lower than the January 2013 tally, which reached 162. She said the youngest victim was an 8-month-old baby.

11-year-old ban in Davao

In Davao City, authorities have arrested up to 44 people, 25 of them minors, for violating an 11-year-old ban against firecracker use.

Police chief Supt. Vicente Danao said the arrested minors, some as young as 7, would be turned over to the social welfare department. They and their parents would undergo counseling, he said.

Cases for violation of the firecracker ban have also been filed against 19 adults arrested during the entire month of December.

Danao said authorities had also confiscated dozens of boxes of fireworks and firecrackers.

The number of arrested violators, however, has gone down from last year, when there were 100 arrests, said the police chief.

The city had no record of injuries from firecracker explosions last year and this year, said Danao.

In Digos City, authorities made an example of a man who was caught lighting firecrackers on the street and continued to do so even after a police patrol passed him.

Junrez Ampoc was the lone violator arrested in Digos. He said he was not aware of the ban on firecrackers.

“It was unbelievable he did not know there was an existing ban. Other people knew,” said Supt. Querubin Manalang Jr., the acting Digos police chief.

First to ban firecrackers

Supt. Ronaldo Llanera, the Davao del Sur police director, said Digos was the first area to declare a firecracker ban in the province.

The ban, however, does not apply to fireworks that do not explode and only display lights, he said.

In Tagum City, many residents shied away from stores selling firecrackers and trooped to the open arena of the new city hall to watch a city-sponsored fireworks display, which cost the city government P400,000.

The health officer of Mlang, North Cotabato, has recommended a firecracker ban after the high number of firecracker-related injuries in the town this year.

Dr. Glecerio Sotea, the Mlang health officer, said he is drafting a letter to the town council to recommend an ordinance banning firecrackers.

At least 20 people have been injured by firecrackers in Mlang since Dec. 25. Among the victims is a 7-year-old boy who suffered third-degree burns in his hand.—With reports from Leilanie Adriano, Yolanda Sotelo and Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Germelina Lacorte, Williamor Magbanua and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao


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