2 killed, hundreds injured during New Year firecracker, gun mayhem in the Philippines

A Filipino reveler injured from a firework accident reacts at a government hospital during the celebration of New Year in Manila, Philippines, Jan 1, 2016.
A Filipino reveler injured from a firework accident reacts at a government hospital during the celebration of New Year in Manila, Philippines, Jan 1, 2016. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
 A Christmas decoration is pictured as a huge fire rages through a slum area in Manila on Jan 1, 2016. Nearly 300 homes were destroyed in the early New Year's Day fire, according to local media reports.
A Christmas decoration is pictured as a huge fire rages through a slum area in Manila on Jan 1, 2016. Nearly 300 homes were destroyed in the early New Year's Day fire, according to local media reports. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (AFP) - Stray bullets and exploding firecrackers have killed two and injured hundreds in the Philippines, the authorities said on Friday (Jan 1), amid the country's traditional riotous New Year celebrations.

A drunk man died after he embraced a giant firecracker, called "Goodbye Philippines", as it was about to explode, Health Secretary Janet Garin told reporters.

"His jaw was shattered. He was so intoxicated he hugged the Goodbye Philippines," Ms Garin said, adding the man was pronounced dead in hospital.

Eighty per cent of the country's 100 million people are Catholic, but Filipino superstition dictates making ear-shattering noises during New Year's Eve to ward off bad luck.

Revellers set off firecrackers and shoot guns into the air to celebrate the December festive season.

The Health Department listed 380 injuries due to fireworks and four others due to stray bullets.

In many hospitals across the country, firecracker victims rushed into emergency rooms grimacing in pain as they held their bloodied limbs.

An eight-year-old boy in the northern farming province of Nueva Vizcaya had three of his fingers amputated after a firecracker exploded in his hands, Ms Garin said. At least nine children had their fingers amputated due to firecracker injuries, she said.

In a Manila shantytown, a lit firecracker started a slum inferno, which quickly spread, fire bureau spokesman Renato Marcial told AFP.

The blaze destroyed a cramped maze of wood and cardboard huts in the early hours of on Friday, leaving 3,000 people homeless, city disaster officer Johnny Yu told AFP.

Panicked and weeping residents fled their burning homes carrying clothes and furniture while men, many of whom were drunk from a night of merrymaking, desperately tried to put out the fire with buckets of water, an AFP photographer at the scene saw.

A 65-year-old woman died from a heart attack as she watched her house burn, Mr Yu said.

Many Filipino civilians keep licenced guns in their homes to protect themselves in a high-crime society and most firecrackers are legal and easily available.

The 384 injuries recorded so far for 2015 are up from 354 in 2014.