The New Stuff

China's New Year Fireworks Get Dangerous: Fires Death


I don't know about you... but I have always been under the pretense that the Chinese are a peaceful people. You know; Ying and Yang, Hot and Sour, etc. But now, due to recent events all in the name of celebration, I'm forced to rethink my Buddhist-like assumption.

As you know, Thursday, February 3 marked Chinese New Year 2011 (though recorded as year 4708 by Chinese records). Whoa! They look great for their age. This year is the year of the rabbit. And much like bunnies, this Lunar milestone caused an estimated 230 million Chinese to hop into travel plans, return to China and ring in the new year which according to the AP, is the world's largest annual human migration. Think about it, it's as if one afternoon, every single person in Brazil decided to up and leave and travel at the same time. Hmm... hope traffic isn't too bad.

Now you don't need to crack open a fortune cookie to know that with all this human commotion, there's bound to be a couple snafus. So, let's take a look at some of the less than celebratory moments. We start with the five star hotel in the capital of the Liaoning province, Shenyang, which was left in complete conflagration due to an uncontrolled fireworks display. As it turns out, New Year fires are common in China. The Beijing News reported, “there were more than 160 small ones in the capital alone. The most famous in recent years destroyed a hotel under construction next to state broadcaster CCTV's iconic headquarters in Beijing in 2009.” Well, why is that? We have plenty of firework displays year round here in the United States, and it doesn't lead to iconic government building being set ablaze. It's simple math. And not to point out the obvious... but if we can figure out the equation, they really don't have a square route to stand on.

Luckily, that particular fire didn't lead to any deaths... however the same can't be said for the fatal fireworks demonstration in Beijing that Chinese state media reports show two people killed and more than 220 hurt.

You may wonder why with these less than impressive results, the Chinese are so big on their fireworks. Well, in a discussion with the Associated Press, officials said, “the tradition of setting off fireworks is to ward off evil spirits.” Unfortunately, they also admitted that this tradition often result in injuries – many of which involve eyes – and fires that occasionally end in casualties. “The official Xinhua New Agency said Friday that the traditional fireworks frenzy in the capital from late Wednesday through Thursday killed two men who were setting off shoddy fireworks and injured 223.”

To give you an idea of just how much bang power China likes to use to end one year and begin another, Xinhua says, “more than 20,000 street cleaners were needed to clean up an estimated 2,380 tons of exploded fireworks in Beijing.” Wow! That makes our little Times Square confetti look like a drop in the egg foo young bucket.

(Image from Kansas City Star)

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