900,000 mobilized in Beijing to ensure fireworks safety in Lantern Festival celebrations

13:18, February 18, 2011      

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About 930,000 people, including police officers, fire-fighters and citizens, were mobilized Thursday night in Beijing to ensure safety as people set off masses of fireworks to celebrate Lantern Festival.

Of them, 170,000 were specially dispatched to protect high-rise buildings from fires triggered by fireworks, a spokesman with the Beijing municipal government said Friday.

Helicopters were again used to patrol over the sky to monitor any possible fires, the spokesman said.

Lantern Festival, which brings an end to the Spring Festival season, or Chinese Lunar New Year, is held on the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

No major fires or casualties were reported Thursday night in Beijing, the spokesman said.

But during the whole Spring Festival period lasting from Feb. 3 to 17, two people were killed while setting off firecrackers and another lost his eye, the spokesman said.

During the period, Beijing reported 203 fireworks-triggered fires, compared with 107 last year, and 501 people were injured, compared with 467 last year, he said.

According to rules issued in 2006, Beijing residents are allowed to set off fireworks within the Fifth Ring Road all day on Lunar New Year's Eve and Lunar New Year's Day, and from 7 a.m. to midnight every day until Lantern Festival.

Lantern Festival celebrations have resulted in two major disasters in Beijing over the past years.

On Feb. 5, 2004 when Lantern Festival was celebrated, 37 people were killed in a major stampede on a bridge in Mihong Park in the Miyun County in Beijing's suburban northeast.

Also during Lantern Festival celebrations on the night of Feb. 9, 2009, illegally set off fireworks ignited a fire that ripped through part of the new headquarters complex of China Central Television in Beijing's Central Business District. A fireman died and seven people, including six firemen and a construction worker, were injured in the blaze.

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