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MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Celebratory gunfire killed a four-year-old boy and more than 400 others were injured by powerful firecrackers in typically rowdy New Year celebrations in the Philippine capital, officials said Tuesday.
A bullet hit 4-year old Ranjelo Nemor in the back as he was playing outside his home in Manila’s suburban Mandaluyong district, said the city’s police chief Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina.
He said police launched an investigation to trace the gun owner but admitted it may take time in a country where unlicensed firearms are widespread. Investigators said the bullet could have been fired from a sumpak or homemade shotgun.
Prior to the New Year festivities, Police repeatedly warned the public not to fire their guns indiscriminately on New Year’s eve.
“We caught 10 people firing indiscriminately, most of them were private security guards who were drunk,” he said over DZBB radio.
Espina said policemen found to have fired their guns to usher in the New Year would also be disciplined.
Despite the warnings, police reported that, aside from Nemor, least 11 others were injured from stray bullets at the height of the celebrations from late Monday to early Tuesday.
In Project 6, Quezon City, a man was also hit on the left leg by a stray bullet. At least four others were also rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center for treatment, including two children.
Three other stray bullet victims were reported in Pasay City.
413 injured, lower than last year
The health department said 413 people across the capital had been injured by firecrackers as of the early hours of Tuesday.
In a press conference, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the 413 cases this year is 17% lower than the 498 cases recorded during the same period last year.
“But it is too early to conclude that we had a better campaign this year based on this report alone,” Ona said.
The department will release a full report after January 5.
Among the casualties was a teenage boy whose hand had to be amputated.
“He picked up what he thought was an unlit firecracker left on the road. It exploded in his hand,” the boy’s mother, Mariel Lou Pateno, said at the packed trauma section of one government hospital.
“We hope the numbers will not rise but we are expecting more to arrive within the day,” Alfonso Nunez, one of the doctors at the hospital who worked through the night, told reporters.
An AFP photographer saw two men in their 50s in hospital with burns to the eyes and face due to firecrackers.
Over 200 arrested
The National Capital Region Police Office arrested 246 people for illegal firecracker use in 616 operations. Nine people were also arrested for indiscriminate firing.
The police closed 90 stalls and 70 vendors.
The estimated amount of the confiscated firecrackers is P1.650 million. The confiscated firecrackers are:
- Piccolo – 891 boxes, 660 pieces, 12 rims and 39 packs
- One truckload of assorted firecrackers and pyrotechnics seized in Manila
- Additional two pick-up loads of the same items in Quezon City
- Additional two jeepney loads of assorted firecracters and pyrotechnics
The fire department said 12 blazes were reported overnight, including a school that caught fire due to fireworks near a sprawling slum area in Manila.
No one was injured in the fires although dozens of families were left homeless, the fire department centre said.
It is a tradition in the mostly Catholic nation of about 100 million to greet the New Year by making noise, in a belief it will drive bad spirits away.
However hundreds are hurt annually by firecrackers and stray bullets, despite strict orders from President Benigno Aquino for police to clamp down on guns and ban powerful firecrackers. – with Agence-France Presse