Big drop in New Year’s Eve injuries in the Philippines after crackdown

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A government crackdown on fireworks slashed the number of injuries from the New Year revelry in the Philippines by more than half, health officials reported yesterday.

In a news conference, Health Secretary Francisco Duque reported that 191 injuries from firecrackers were tallied from Dec 21 to Jan 1. That compared with 524 in the same period a year earlier.

"We are relatively pleased, relative because there are still injuries, but pleased because of the substantial reduction or decrease in fireworks-related injuries," said Mr Duque.

He credited the drop to a police crackdown on firecrackers banned for approximating the power of explosive devices.

President Rodrigo Duterte's orders restricting the use of firecrackers to "community zones" and threatening to sack policemen caught sporadically firing their guns in the air also helped, he said.

The restrictions, though, have led to a more muted welcome to the new year in metropolitan Manila.

Previously, streets would be engulfed in the popping of firecrackers for hours, in the run-up to midnight on Dec 31.

Roads and alleys became "war zones", as people spent thousands of pesos on fireworks and pyrotechnics - some with colourful names such as "Judas' belt" - to put up the loudest and most elaborate display in their neighbourhoods.

By early morning, a thick fog and the acrid smell of gunpowder would blanket Manila.

These celebrations, however, had also made the Philippines among the most dangerous places in the world to mark the new year.