400 hurt as Asian nation celebrates with gunfire

More than 400 people were injured by powerful firecrackers and gunfire at New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Philippines — down 17% on a year earlier but still high enough to make it one of Asia’s most violent parties to welcome 2013.

Health secretary Enrique Ona said yesterday the 413 casualties included a child, who was hit in the head by a stray bullet fired by an unidentified person at the height of new-year revelry in suburban Caloocan city in metropolitan Manila.

The 7-year-old girl is fighting for her life and Mr Ona said she may not survive.

Police said another child was accidentally hit by a shell fired from a home-made shotgun and died during festivities in Mandaluyong city, also in the Manila region.

However, health officials said they have not received the details of the incident and could not immediately include the death in their casualty list.

Mr Ona said the 17% drop in gunshot wounds and firecracker injuries was “still not enough”.

As an example, he said one man had his hand blown off in an accident while lighting a huge, prohibited firecracker, while at least eight people were hit by celebratory gunfire.

Many Filipinos — largely influenced by Chinese tradition — believe noisy New Year celebrations drive away evil and misfortune. But they have carried that superstition to extremes, exploding huge firecrackers and firing guns to welcome the new year despite threats of arrest.

Although the number of injuries has tapered off in recent years — largely due to hard economic times as well as government scare campaigns — the figures remain alarming.

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