New Year fireworks set off 5,945 blazes in ChinaFebruary 7th, 2011 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS
Beijing, Feb 7 (IANS) The tradition of bursting firecrackers on the occasion of Chinese New Year to ward off evil spirits has been blamed for rising number of fire accidents across the country during the festive season.Firefighters battled 5,945 fires nationwide during the 32-hour span from the beginning of Wednesday, the last day of the previous lunar year, to 8 a.m. Thursday, according to figures released by the fire control bureau of the ministry of public security on Sunday, the China Daily reported Monday.
That figure, for the 32-hour period, was about 80 percent of the 7,480 fires across the country during the entire seven-day Spring Festival holiday last year, according to previously released figures.
Fireworks were the main culprit for this year’s rash of fires, but dry weather in north and east China also played a role, the bureau said.
Fireworks and firecrackers traditionally welcome the lunar New Year to ward off evil spirits. At the peak, usually midnight of New Year’s Eve, residents rush to their doorsteps or the roadside to ignite explosives, filling the air with sulfur and thick smoke.
But the festive celebrations come at a cost, with injuries and destruction of property in fires.
In Beijing, two people were killed and 223 injured between the start of Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday. On Wednesday alone, the number of fireworks-related fires in the city was up by 178 percent year-on-year, said the Beijing Municipal Office statement on fireworks and firecrackers.
The two men killed in Beijing died after setting off shoddy fireworks in the early hours of Thursday, the office said.
The 223 people who suffered injuries had wounds ranging from eye injuries to burns, it said.
In Shenyang, capital of northeast China’s Liaoning province, fire gutted a five-star hotel early Thursday. Local officials said there were about 50 people in the hotel at the time and all were evacuated, without any reported casualties.
Hoses on fire engines sent to tackle the fire at the 219-metre-high building could only spray water 50 metres high.
The blaze was probably triggered by fireworks igniting external decorations, police said. Investigations into the cause are continuing.
The ministry’s fire control bureau Sunday required local authorities to be on 24-hour duty during the remainder of the holidays, particularly in drought-plagued Beijing, and Hebei, Henan and Shandong provinces that have not seen effective rainfall since October.
The residue from fireworks also caused air pollution in cities.
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Tags: china beijing, china daily, chinese new year, doorsteps, dry weather, east china, evil spirits, eye injuries, festive celebrations, festive season, fire accidents, fire engin, firecrackers, five star hotel, liaoning province, lunar new year, lunar year, northeast china, spring festival, thick smoke