There was a sharp increase in the number of fires reported in the first week of the Spring Festival this year but there was also a sharp decrease in the number of deaths, injuries and damage to property.
About 13,000 fires were recorded nationwide from January 28 to February 4, a rise of 15.5 percent over the same period last year, the Ministry of Public Security announced yesterday in Beijing.
A total of 63 people were killed and 47 injured in the fires, down 41.1 percent and 11.3 percent respectively from last year. The incidence of direct damage reduced by half.
The ministry's spokesperson Wu Heping said the increase in the number of fires was to be expected because the ban on fireworks was lifted this year in more than 200 cities. The ban was imposed 12 years ago.
"The lifting of the ban might have been a boon to traditional Chinese customs but it also put huge pressure on our fire departments," Wu said.
The most serious incident took place at a temple fair in Linzhou, central China's Henan Province, on January 29.
Burning firecrackers were thrown into a company's warehouse packed with fireworks, with the resulting devastating explosion killing 36 revelers and injuring a further 48.
Police have arrested four employees of the Lilin Firecracker Company, who are suspected of illegally buying and storing fireworks.
Pyrotechnics were banned in about 300 cities after 1988 for safety reasons, although firecrackers are believed to scare away evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to doorsteps, especially during Spring Festival.
(China Daily February 8, 2006)