Posts Tagged ‘fireworks’

This just in: Fireworks can hurt you!

March 1, 2010

Ok you’ll need to be seated for this one…

In a village in Guangdong province, a fireworks related blast has killed 19 people and injured a further 50. That’s right, a fireworks related blast…I know, I know, it’s hard to comprehend. Right – I shouldn’t make fun of something like this – and in reality I’m not, but these stories continue to amaze me. Will these people never learn?

The ‘blast’ occurred outside a block of apartments, and judging by various images floating around, burned most of them. Some people were so badly burned that police had to do DNA tests to actually identify them. A farmer who lives 200 metres away said the force of the explosion actually put cracks through his walls and floor.

So that then raises the question, WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY DOING!?! Did all the locals pool their fireworks stores together into one big pile then set them alight, in what would surely be the ultimate celebration? I wouldn’t be surprised…

You know the old saying…another day another firework related death. China will never change.

In my next life, please don’t let me come back as..

January 7, 2010

…A Chinese miner or perhaps worse, an employee of a Chinese fireworks factory! Friday saw yet another explosion in a Chinese fireworks factory, reportedly killing nine workers and destroying seven buildings. Obviously this is the prime time of the year for the Chinese fireworks industry, with the Chinese New Year just a month away it’s time to stockpile en masse, yet as we see almost every year – and sometimes multiple times, there seems to be little in the way of safety procedures.

Fireworks may be wonderful to look at, and the Chinese; who happened to invent them, set them off to celebrate an absolute plethora of occasions, but despite their colourful charm, they are also extremely dangerous. Only recently in Australia, a man barely survived one going off in his face, losing most of said face and a whole bunch of teeth. They’re banned in Australia for a reason – though that doesn’t stop people from trying to set off their own little shows.

While in China, I witnessed many local firework displays with absolutely no care for safety. They approached them like a child would,  excited and completely without regard for safety. I have to wonder what goes in the fireworks factories to chance set them off, and while I have no idea what caused it, my money’s on a worker taking a time-out with a cigarette, surrounded by combustibles.

Towering inferno, Beijing style

February 10, 2009

As crowds watched, the 40 story Mandarin Oriental building burnt brightly in the night like some kind of massive candle. Thankfully un-occupied, the building was scheduled to be opened late last year but was delayed…and if you were one of the ones scheduled to move in, I’d be buying  a lotto ticket right about now. The night was coincidentally Lantern festival – celebrating the new Lunar year. People were allowed to set off fireworks until midnight and well….if you’ve got em, use em! Authorities are unsure what started the blaze – which burnt from the top down, but I would bet any amount of money that someone’s stray fireworks have hit something flammable – perhaps a nice tasty unprotected gas bottle, and the rest is history.

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

The Mandarin Oriental lights up the Beijing skyline

I have witnessed firsthand the way people in China set off fireworks. They do it with little to no consideration for the surrounding area. They set them off beside busy roadways, where smoke is cloaking the traffic, and debris falls on the cars. They do them in big crowds. In China, they just don’t think of safety. Grown adults are comparable to children in a lot of cases. Excitable and unthinking. Big boom first, oh, did i just burn that down? a distant second.

I could not think of anything worse than being stuck in a towering inferno in China. The lack of safety systems also applies to things such as evacuating. If that building was occupied, man, I dont even want to think what kind of deathtrap stampede there would have been to escape.

All the fireworks in China!

January 28, 2009

Well the Year of the Ox is in full swing, may you have a good one! A prominent feature of any Chinese celebration is of course fireworks. The Chinese invented them back in the 12th Century as a natural extension of their gunpowder invention – a little thing that kinda changed the way the world fought each other. China is in fact the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of fireworks. Likely also the source of the most fireworks related accidents as we have previously mentioned!

I think most people love fireworks. They’re bright, colourful, loud and always present at festive activities such as New Years Eve. Most people would think of fireworks and think of having a good time. In China, it’s different. Fireworks are so commonplace that it’s a daily event. Seeing a fireworks display is no different than seeing a bus drive past – it happens all the time.

While we were in China for at least 6 months straight we experienced nightly fireworks. We couldn’t believe it. They weren’t the huge overly expensive type things you would see over Sydney Harbour at New Years, but moreso ‘kit’ fireworks. Our first night in China had us dragged out to a banquet and as we drove to the restaurant, in an almost surreal way, fireworks were going off over the street. What we couldn’t understand was no-one was actually paying them any attention.

The mess left after a fireworks display celebrating the opening of a small restaurant.

The mess left after a fireworks display celebrating the opening of a small restaurant.

It took us many months to actually see some being launched. We would always see them in the sky from distance, but never anyone actually setting them off. The Chinese set them off to mark so many occasions. Fireworks are a symbol of prosperity and good luck. If a new restaurant opens? Fireworks. If someone moves into a new house? Fireworks. Baby born? Fireworks. Particularly large sneeze? You guessed it, fireworks.

One night we were lucky enough to have dinner down the road from the school where we lived and see them setting up fireworks along the street side. They would start with ‘poppers’, which were lines of what had to be at least 50 red tubes. These were placed along the road. They would then light them one by one and they would launch into the air and explode with a huge ‘pop!” It was amusing as they made smoke go absolutely everywhere and half the empty exploded cannisters were coming down and landing on passing traffic. Safety standards? Nope!

Next came the crackers. These are incredibly loud and come on long tangled vines. The thing with these is after they have exploded they leave an absolutely unbelievable mess around the area they were lit. The Poppers leave considerable mess also – but nowhere near as much as these crackers.

Then finally, fireworks in a box. They bring out a box the size of a small television with a fuse. Once lit it shoots fireworks into the air in a basic, yet quite impressive display. In true Chinese fashion, all rubbish is left on the roadside for someone else to deal with. Within a minute, both of the boxes from the fireworks displays had been scavenged by passers by.

If you thought fireworks in China were just like New Years Eve at home – think again.

Fireworks in a box in full effect!

Fireworks in a box in full effect!

Boom!

January 16, 2009

Anyone who has spent even a nanosecond in China will know of the Chinese love for fireworks and crackers.  Not a day went by when we weren’t woken by the splutter of fireworks in the distance, and it was a rare night when they did not like up the sky.  On our first night in China as we were driven to a banquet dinner with the school, we were amazed to see fireworks in the distance.  We asked one of the teachers “What are the fireworks for?  Is there a celebration?”  To which we only received bemused and puzzled looks.  We joked to ourselves that perhaps the fireworks were in our honour, but were soon to realise this was a daily (by multiple) event. 

The Chinese use fireworks for all sorts of occasions, symbolising the end of the old and the beginning of the new.   They have been used throughout time to bring prosperity and happiness and to frighten away evil spirits.  We were to learn that fireworks would be set off for all manner of reasons – birthdays, weddings, store and restaurant openings…hell, buy a pair of socks and set of some fireworks to celebrate! 

Of course, if you put together the concepts of China + fireworks, your mind is bound to realise that a lot of these fireworks must be made illegally and perhaps many Chinese must die each year as a result of fireworks related accidents.  Well, you’d be right on both counts.  In fireworks-1news this week, police and firefighters destroyed a large amount of illegal fireworks that had been confiscated in the lead up to Spring Festival (Chinese New Year).  The pictures are pretty impressive, but would have been moreso if the destruction had have been staged at night (possibly with an epic song about the flag and some children in bubbles).  Alas, there are possibly thousands of Chinese whose New Year is looking a little more grim and lacking in good fortune.

Sadly though, with the illegal production of so many fireworks comes the obvious lack of safety, hence Chinese news is littered with stories throughout the year of accidents, explosions and hundreds of deaths.  The latest resulting in the death of 13 people in an illegal factory.  Whilst the media claims of crackdowns, it’s impossible to halt the scale of these sorts of operations when there is  money to be made and an ever growing market.

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