Firecrackers, stray bullets mar New Year celebrations

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – Injuries caused by firecrackers, fireworks and stray bullets during the revelries that greeted the New Year were reported from some areas in Southwestern Mindanao and in Zamboanga City.

Eight people, mostly children, sustained various injuries due to firework and firecracker-related explosions in the run-up and during the New Year’s Eve celebration in this city and in nearby South Cotabato province.

A report from the City Integrated Health Services Office (CIHSO) cited that a seven year-old boy from Barangay Calumpang here was rushed to a private hospital at around 8:45 p.m. Monday after being hit by a wayward “kwitis.”

The victim, who was only identified through his surname Kusain, only sustained minor injuries on his forehead.

The second incident involved a 10-year-old boy identified as Aldrin Jay Losaria, who sustained second-degree burns after a “fountain” pyrotechnic suddenly exploded around midnight Monday.

Losaria, who is a resident of Tantangan town in South Cotabato, was just on vacation with his relatives in Barangay Mabuhay here.

In South Cotabato, the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) said five firecracker victims were separately brought for treatment of various minor injuries at the provincial hospital in Koronadal City before the New Year’s Eve.

A 10 year-old boy from Barangay Kablon in Tupi town was reported to have lost a finger when a piccolo firecracker exploded on his hands.

The victim, who was identified with his surname Guerrero, received anti-tetanus treatment for his injury.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido, IPHO chief, said Wednesday that they were still consolidating the reports regarding the cases of firework and firecracker-related incidents in the area.

“We don’t have the exact number yet as to the firework and firecracker-related injuries but we expect the reports from the hospitals and other health stations to come within the day,” he said.

Prior to the New Year’s Eve, the IPHO already recorded 16 firework and firecracker-related injury cases within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

Majority of the recorded cases were accidents involving piccolo, which is among the firecrackers earlier banned by authorities.

Last year, 27 of the 54 total firecracker and fireworks-related injuries recorded during the Christmas and New Year’s Eve revelries in the province were also caused by piccolo.

The DOH-12 earlier launched the “Aksyon: Paputok Injury Reduction” or APIR in the area to highlight its campaign against the use of firecrackers and fireworks.

The campaign reiterates the DOH’s Oplan Iwas Paputok that was started in 1994 to monitor the use of firecrackers, particularly from December 21 to January 4, as well as to minimize injuries and deaths caused by firecrackers and fireworks.

In Cotabato City, appeals made by Muslim and Christian religious leaders not to use firearms in celebrating the New Year seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Personnel at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) said they received seven victims of stray bullets, adding they were alarmed since they had admitted fewer victims in the past three years.

“We thought the campaign against the use of firecrackers has been effective since the number of casualties has decreased, but I think the campaign against the use of firearms was neglected. It’s like we’re back to the old time,” an employee who asked not to be named told MindaNews.

Ronald Ali, 42, and a resident of Roales St., Cotabato City was in critical condition after a bullet lodged in his head.

His mother said the victim was standing by the door watching the fireworks in the sky when he fell on the ground with blood flowing from his head.

Another victim of stray bullet in Cotabato City was Saima Bantas Miro of Biniruan, Poblacion 9. She was hit in the leg.

“I just woke up to get drinking water when I noticed that my leg was bleeding”, she said.

In barangay Torres, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Reynaldo Aquino, 21, from was hit in the shoulder.

The other four victims who were admitted at the CRMC were declared to be in safe condition.

The hospital also treated five people injured by firecrackers who came before and after midnight Monday. The youngest victim was six years old.

Three of the victims were injured by piccolo and the two others by “kwitis”.

In Zamboanga City, police said 12 people were injured during the New Year revelry in the city. Nine of them were victims of firecracker explosions, and the three others were victims of stray bullets.

De Ocampo said one of the victims of stray bullets was Elvira Aurea, who was hit around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, in Barangay Mampang.

The other two victims were Robert Palces of Mampang and Jonathan Bacane, the police official said.

Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City police officer-in-charge on Tuesday said that all of the victims were declared out of danger.

The victims were rushed to the government-run Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC), which was placed on “Code White Alert” for the New Year revelry, de Ocampo said.

The city recorded 22 victims of firecracker explosions from December 21 until Monday, the New Year’s Eve.

The oldest victim, 47-year old Franklin Arcillas, lost three fingers on his right hand to a “super lolo” explosion on Sunday.

In Makilala, North Cotabato, an internet café located near the town’s fire station burned around 4:30 a.m. today.

George Romano, caretaker of Immaculate Prints estimated the damage at P3 million.

The fire also gutted the two-storey house and garage attached to the café.

Romano said he was not sure if firecrackers caused the fire. But he said it was not faulty wiring either since the fire happened during a brownout.

“But whatever caused the fire doesn’t matter to us. What matters to us was that the fire station, which was just few steps away from our house, responded too late to our fire call,” he said, adding the local firefighters arrived 20 minutes after the fire started.

He said policemen nearby also went to the fire station to alert the firemen who he said could be asleep at the time.

Romano said they were only able to retrieve from the house their freezer and a few other appliances.

None of his family members was hurt in the incident.

In Magpet, also in North Cotabato, two container vans owned by the Magpet Agro-Industrial Multi-Purpose Cooperative were damaged by fire. (Allen V. Estabillo, Ferdinandh Cabrera, Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews, with reports from Zamboanga City)