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Beijing on alert for fire during lunar new year festival (2)

(Xinhua)

12:40, January 23, 2012

To come to the rescue of the people suffering fireworks-related injuries, Tongren Hospital, China's leading hospital for ophthalmic medicine and surgery, has had 14 ophthalmologists at the emergency on duty this week, in preparing for a surge in the number of out-patients during the holiday.

During last year's holiday week, the hospital treated 206 patients with fireworks-induced injuries, 178 of whom suffered eye injuries. The youngest was only two years old, said Dr. Lu Hai, deputy chief of the hospital's ophthalmic center.

The fireworks were originally intended to scare away the "Nian" (year in Chinese), a mythical beast supposed to have preyed on people and livestock at the turn of the year. The monster, however, was afraid of bangs and the red color. Although few now believe the existence of the monster, Chinese families carry on the tradition of setting off fireworks.

Apart from the new year eve, the fifth day and the first full moon of the Year of Dragon which falls on Jan. 27 and Feb. 6 respectively will also be tough days for fire control departments as the Chinese love to set off fireworks at the two days to wish for fortune and luck, said Yang.

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