New Year's revelry in the Philippines kills one, injures hundreds

A Filipino worker preparing firecrackers inside a backyard factory in Bocaue, Bulacan, on Dec 27.
A Filipino worker preparing firecrackers inside a backyard factory in Bocaue, Bulacan, on Dec 27.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - Stray bullets and exploding firecrackers have killed one person and injured almost 200 others as the Philippines plunged into its annual chaotic New Year revelry, the authorities said on Thursday (Dec 31).

Officials said 185 people have been treated for blast-related or gunshot injuries and one person has been shot dead since Dec 21, when the mostly Catholic country launched into two weeks of holidays and merrymaking.

Revellers traditionally set off firecrackers, including potentially deadly types with names like "Goodbye Philippines", and shoot guns into the air to celebrate the festive season.

"Our hospitals stand ready with manpower and equipment to deal with any unusual upsurge of casualties," health department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy told AFP.

Police said five civilians, a soldier and a policeman were arrested for illegally firing their guns.

The annual tide of New Year injuries dropped in 2014, with 351 people hurt by fireworks and three hit by stray bullets, the lowest in five years.

However the number of people who had to undergo amputations rose to 14 from eight, including a five-year-old boy who lost his hand.

In the 2013 celebrations, at least two people were killed and 793 others were left injured.

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