Saturday, March 6, 2010

Beijing embraces lunar New Year after overnight firework spree

By: BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua)
Editor: Han Jingjing
Details: The first thing Qiwen did when she woke up Sunday on the first morning of the Year of Tiger was to run towards the windows. As she found trees and houses standing tall, safe and sound, the four-year-old cracked a smile.

In her first outdoor venture on a Chinese New Year Eve at Saturday night, the little girl huddled up against her mother in attempt to cushion earsplitting firecrackers while taking safe peeks at the lightened up sky.

But she quickly requested for a retreat as chilly wind, pungent powder and continuous bangs turned her neighborhood into an unfamiliar place. Frowning and nervous, she whispered: "Mum, can trees and houses hold their own? What about the Earth?"

As positive answers to the riddles in her heart got confirmed, the girl ignored the call to have "jiaozi", or dumplings, a kind of conventional food eaten in the first day of the Chinese New Year, pestering her parents for another bout of fireworks show.

This is the fifth year that the Municipal Government lifted its bans to allow holiday celebrations with firecrackers at designated time and venues as a result of public appeal to be more observant of traditional holiday customs.

Sources with the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said that a security force involving 880,000 people including 25,000 police officers, 13,000 armed police and militia as well as 84,2000 civilians have been deployed Saturday night to safeguard New Year Eve. The total is twice as many as that mobilized for New Year's Eve on the Gregorian calendar.

About 3,000 police officers fanned out patrolling neighborhoods together with security personnel. Forty-one SWAT soldiers were posted along the Chang'an Street, downtown areas within the Second Ring Road.

Between Midnight and 1 a.m. Sunday, 24 criminal cases were reported to the city police via telephone hotline 110, the lowest record of the year.

To rapidly respond to fire alarms, fire-fighting departments arranged eight fire engines as a reserve force on the Fifth Ring Road. Another 27 were deployed in heavily-populated residential areas.

The police also employed satellite vehicles and video systems to make a quick response in case of emergencies.

From 23:45 Saturday to 0:15 Sunday, seventy-one streets were closed so that residents could set off fireworks, comparing 100 at Spring Festival last year.

Zhou Zhengyu, director of the Municipal Government's Fireworks Management Office said that by 1:00 a.m Sunday, 52 people were injured, up 44 percent year on year. But all injuries were minor, with no deaths, or cases of eyeball removal or amputation of body parts being reported.

Thirty-eight fire accidents were reported, down 24 percent from 50 last year.

Apart from the lunar New Year's Eve, records show that other periods with many a fire accidents during the Spring Festival season might also occur on the fifth and sixth day of the weeklong Chinese New Year holiday, which will fall Thursday and Friday, and on the date with the first full moon, also known as Lantern Festival which will fall Feb. 28 this year.

In different hospitals and emergency centers across the city, more than 13,000 doctors and nurses were on duty Saturday night.

Statistics from the Beijing Emergency Medical Center showed that from 8:00 a.m. Saturday to 9 :00 a.m, Sunday, it handled 621 calls of emergency, including 86 cases of injuries, of which 27 were caused by setting off of fireworks.

Lu Hai, chief of the Ocular Trauma Clinic with the Beijing Tongren Hospital, said it was time for the authorities to standardize use of fireworks.

"There are rules restricting juvenile consumption of tobacco and alcohol, or web surfing by youngsters. But the use of fireworks by children still remains a regulation vacuum," he said.

"Spring Festival is our busiest day in a year, especially after the midnight of the New Year Eve, the rush hour for fireworks celebration. We find many injured children were ignorant of the dangers as their parents were laid-back and gave them a free hand," said Lu who has been on duty for five New Year Eves in a row.

Records from Tongren Hospital showed that seventy-three or nearly 32 percent of the 231 accepted and treated patients during Spring Festival last year were minors. Of the 55 injured kids aged under 12, more than 30 suffered ocular injuries that would result in blindness.

Spring Festival is the most important traditional Chinese festive event in a year and is an occasion for reunions of family members, relatives and friends, completed with plenty of eating and fun-making.

To make sure locals and visiting guests have a safe and relaxed holiday, Beijing Municipal Administration Center of Parks have required its 11 affiliated parks including the Summer Palace, the Beijing Zoo, Beihai,Jingshan and Tiantan parks to expand the area of the existing services so as to meet the rising demand by visitors at the weeklong holiday beginning Saturday.

Forty-two temporary ticket booths, 199 traffic guide boards and 268 shops have been added, alongside recruitment of 100 volunteers.

Park administrators have also organized thorough inspections around areas such as those with high concentrations of cultural relics, recreation facilities, animal dens to stamp out safety risks caused by firecracker displays.

In addition to putting up more than 200 posters and 120 permanent markers banning fireworks, the park administrators have also prepared plenty of fire-extinguishing equipment to make sure enough equipment are at hand when in need and to limit the damage of fire hazards to the least extent.

Official figures showed that Beijing's 5,000 sanitation workers had mobilized 209 vehicles since the New Year Eve and cleared 79.69 tonnes of fireworks garbage by Sunday morning, up 11.07 tonnes from the same period of last year.

Southward in Shanghai, local residents' zeal with firecrackers were evident even amid drizzles. Local authorities said that 30,000 sanitation workers in this commercial city on east China seaboard started to clean up the streets of firecracker residues from 2:00 a.m Sunday, and by 7 a.m., they had cleared firework garbage of more than 1,000 tonnes.


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