Fireworks caused 2 dead, hundreds injured in Beijing

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Two people were killed and 223 have been injured in the Chinese capital amid traditional New Year fireworks frenzy that lasted from Wednesday evening to Thursday noon.

The dead, two men, were killed respectively in the explosion while setting off shoddy fireworks in the early hours of Thursday, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, according to a statement from the Beijing Municipal Office on Fireworks and Firecrackers.

Another 223 suffered injuries ranging from eye injuries to being burned as of 2 p.m. Thursday, it said.

The Chinese set off fireworks and firecrackers to welcome the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, following the tradition of using loud fireworks to ward off evil spirits. At the peak hours, usually midnight of New Year Eve, residents rush to the doorstep or the roadside to ignite explosives, filling the air with a strong smell of sulfur and thick smoke.

But the festivities cause misery every year, with injuries and fires ignited by the spark.

In Beijing Tongren Hospital, 78 of the 85 patients injured by fireworks received treatment for eye injuries, and children accounted for one-quarter of the injured, said Lu Hai, a doctor with Tongren Hospital.

"Some injured citizens are unlucky passersby or bystanders," said Lu.

On Thursday, Beijing dispatched more than 20,000 street cleaners after a night of fireworks. A total of 2,380 tons of exploded fireworks have been swept up by workers.

Out of concerns over environmental pollution and possible damages caused by fireworks, Beijing had banned fireworks in urban districts since 1993, a policy that has been followed by many Chinese cities.

The ban was revoked in 2006, after the public complained about the loss of festive atmasphere. A new set of rules were enacted to restrict the time and places for fireworks and firecrackers.

In 2009, an illegal fireworks display kindled a blaze that consumed a building of the newly-built headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV), killing one fireman and injuring another eight.

Fire gutted a five-star hotel in northeast China's Shenyang city in the wee hours of Thursday, forcing some 50 people in the hotel to evacuate. Police said the fire was triggered by fireworks, which accidentally sparked off the external wall of the buildings.

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