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Eleven Dead, 713 Injured in New Year’s Revelry

January 1, 1988

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ At least 11 people died and 713 others were injured as Manila exploded like a war zone in frenzied revelry to ring in the new year, police and hospital authorities said today.

Doctors said there was a drop in casualties compared to last year when 13 died and 1,400 others were injured.

″We have received few cases at this time compared to last year,″ said Dr. Dennis Franco of the National Orthopedic Hospital late Thursday. ″I hope it stays that way.″

But by noon today, hospitals were still admitting casualties from New Year’s Eve celebrations.

A check with at least 23 hospitals in the capital showed that four people had been hit by stray bullets and died.

One of them was Jose Marso, 9, who was hit by a bullet in the head while watching a fireworks display outside his home, a nurse at the suburban Quezon City Medical Center said.

The boy was dead on arrival at the hospital, the nurse said, adding that his parents did not know he had been hit by a bullet until they talked to the doctor.

Six others died from stab wounds inflicted in drunken brawls while another died of injuries in a car collision.

The injured included 658 people who suffered burns and other injuries, including blown off fingers, caused by firecrackers exploding in their hands, 33 wounded in stabbing incidents and 10 hurt in road accidents, hospital authorities said.

At least 12 other people suffered gunshot wounds, eight of them apparently inflicted by stray bullets fired as part of the noise-making, officials said.

Armed forces chief Gen. Fidel V. Ramos had warned soldiers and licensed gun holders not to fire their weapons into the air to greet the new year.

In the town of Malolos north of Manila, 20 people were treated for burns and wounds from firecrackers, authorities said. Casualties elsewhere in the country were not immediately available.

Police said they suspected firecrackers as the cause of a fire that razed seven houses in Manila’s Tondo district. At least 10 wooden electrical posts also were gutted by bonfires lit by revelers on city streets, arson investigator Cpl. Bienvenido Escoto said.

Filipinos traditionally greet the new year with a frenzy of noise-making. Hours before the end of 1987, Manila’s streets were filled with the crackle of illegal firecrackers.

In the capital’s 13 municipalities and four incorporated cities, vendors enjoyed brisk business as thousands of Filipinos went on a last-minute binge for firecrackers, sparklers and other pyrotechnic devices.

Others bought horns fashioned from bamboo and cardboard, rattles and toy guns for noise-making. Some used cannons made from hollowed out bamboo while others simply banged on aluminum pots.

By midnight, the air in the city of 8 million reeked of gunpowder, and virtually every corner was blanketed with black smoke from firecrackers and hundreds of bonfires made with old tires.

Among the injured was 10-year-old Antonio Aragon who had a gaping wound on his right leg caused by shrapnel from an exploding tin can. The container was packed with leftover firecrackers recovered from the streets, said the boy’s sobbing mother, Concepcion.

″It was already morning and we were cleaning up from last night’s revelry,″ she said. ″He found some unlighted firecrackers and he lighted them inside a can.

″He thought exploding firecrackers was fun. Now, he is in the hospital for his folly.″

Several patients including young boys and middle-aged men waited for their turn to be treated at the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo. Most held up heavily bandaged hands.

″I thought the firecracker was a dud,″ said 12-year-old Arnold Pacheco when asked how he got hurt. ″So I picked it up and gave it a little shake and then it suddenly exploded.″

Fireworks and firecrackers have been banned by law since 1966 but the ban has never been enforced. More than 100,000 people earn their living through the manufacture and sale of fireworks and firecrackers.

Special police teams had been created to arrest ban violators. But police admit the impracticability of enforcing the law, and no arrests had been announced by this afternoon.

Update hourly