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Holiday firecrackers kill 1, injure 200 in Beijing

(Xinhua)

09:02, January 29, 2012

BEIJING, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Firecrackers lit by Beijing residents to celebrate the Chinese new year killed one person and injured more than 200 others in the Chinese capital during the past seven-day holiday, the government reported Saturday.

The holiday firecracker casualties this year, however, were down nearly 50 percent from a year earlier, according to the municipal health bureau.

Nine of the injured remain hospitalized, the bureau said, without revealing any detail about the only fatality.

Setting off firecrackers was believed to be an effective way to dispel misfortune and evils in ancient times, and thus became a must for the Chinese during major festivals and celebrations.

However, safety hazards caused by firecrackers became a major concern in China in the late 1980s, and 282 cities banned them successively in the 1990s, resulting in controversies as some complained that the centuries-old tradition would disappear if the ban continued.

People also complained that there had been a loss of festivity without the bangs of firecrackers.

Following suit with other cities, the Beijing municipal government lifted its 12-year ban on firecrackers in December 2005, but still restricts the locations and timing for igniting firecrackers.

This year, urban residents in Beijing left 183.7 tonnes of paper scraps from firecrackers set off during the holiday, prompting authorities to mobilize more than 5,000 sweepers to keep the streets clean, government officials earlier said.

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